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THE BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY 



HENRICUS G. S. BOWDEN 
Censor deputatus 



^ GULIELMUS 

EPISCOPUS ARINDELENSIS 
Vicarius Generalis 



Westmonasterii, 

die 26 Maii, 1906. 



THE BLESSED JOHN 

VIANNEY 

CURE D'ARS 
PATRON OF PARISH PRIESTS 

BY 

JOSEPH VIANNEY 

TRANSLATED BY 
C. W. W. 




^'^^^iiMP 



LONDON 
DUCKWORTH & CO., 3, HENRIETTA STREET, W.C. 

NEW YORK, CINCINNATI* CHICAGO: DUBLIN: 

BENZIGER BROS. M. H. GILL & SON 

1906 



All Rights Reserved 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

HIS HOME EDUCATION .... I 

CHAPTER II 

HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD . . l6 

CHAPTER III 

THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS . . 34 

CHAPTER IV 

THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS AND THE SAINT'S HEAVY 

TRIALS ...... 57 

CHAPTER V 

ATTEMPTS AT FLIGHT. HIS FELLOVi^-LABOURERS . 86 

CHAPTER VI 

THE PILGRIMAGE. ITS PHYSIOGNOMY . . I03 

CHAPTER VII 

THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS . . I20 



vi CONTENTS 

CHAPTER VIII 

PACK 

THE PILGRIMAGE : VOCATIONS, AND WORKS . 1 39 

CHAPTER IX 

THE PILGRIMAGE. THE SIGNS OF THE SAINT'S 

MISSION . . . . . .159 

CHAPTER X 

THE INNER LIFE OF THE BLESSED CUR^ D'ARS 

AT THE TIME OF THE PILGRIMAGE . . 172 

CHAPTER XI 

HIS DEATH AND THE PROCESS OF BEATIFICATION I93 



APPENDIX 
THE NAME OF THE .BLESSED CURt D'ARS . . 209 



BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, 
CURE D'ARS 



CHAPTER I 

HIS HOME EDUCATION 

JEAN Marie Vianney, who was to be the honour of 
the secular clergy in the France of our day, was 
born in the very heart of the diocese of Lyons, that 
diocese which, during the nineteenth century, was 
destined to provide our country with more apostles, 
and more charitable works than any other. He 
belonged to the agricultural class, from which our 
best priests have always been recruited. 

His father was Matthieu Vianney, son of Pierre 
Vianney and Marie Charavay, and his mother was 
Marie Beluze, daughter of Pierre Beluze and Marie 
Tabard. They owned some land at Dardilly, a large 
village situated quite near Lyons, in an exquisitely 
peaceful and retired spot, at the foot of the Monts 
d'Or ; and it was there that the future Cure of Ars 
was born, on May 8th, 1786. The family already 
consisted of two girls and a boy ; and another brother 
and sister were born afterwards. At his baptism 
he received the name of Jean Marie ; to which 



2 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

later on, at his confirmation, he added that of 
Baptiste. 

He began his studies at the age when they are 
usually finished. But before his immediate prepara- 
tion for the priesthood, he had undergone another, 
less direct in appearance but none the less effica- 
cious. He had been brought up in a very Christian 
atmosphere, and had learnt to love charity by 
seeing it daily practised. Every evening, at his 
father's house, there was a constant procession of 
poor people, who came to beg a bowl of soup and a 
night's lodging on the straw of the barn. Sometimes 
there were as many as twelve or fifteen, some stand- 
ing round the big fire-place, where a log was blazing, 
while others were seated on the threshold of the 
dwelling. Often it happened that the supply was too 
small for the number of guests, in which case the 
father of the family deprived himself of his own 
portion to make an extra one. 

On one occasion, before the birth of Jean Marie, 
Benoit Joseph Labre was among the beggars, whom 
M. Vianney had invited to his table. The Saint no 
doubt prayed for a blessing on his host's hospitable 
house ; and perhaps it was in answer to his prayer 
that He, who has promised to reward even a cup 
of water offered in His name, sent to the humble 
labourer, who shared his supper every night with 
the unfortunate, that truly magnificent reward, a 
son, who was to practise, in an heroic degree, all the 
hereditary virtues of his family. 

Little Jean Marie early showed signs that he was 
to surpass his parents in charity. He brought every 



HIS HOME EDUCATION 3 

beggar he encountered to his father's house, and 
welcomed those who came there of their own accord. 
He would open the door for them, relieve them of 
their bags, and carry their torn clothes to his mother, 
that she might mend them. He was specially in- 
terested in children of his own age, and deprived 
himself of food, that he might have more to give 
them ; and, knowing that man does not live by bread 
alone, he taught them the great truths of religion, 
which he himself had imbibed while yet an infant. 

Later on he was wont to declare that he could 
not even remember the day on which he began to 
love the Blessed Virgin ; it seemed to him as if he 
had always done so ; she was, with God, the object 
of his earliest affection. Indeed the names of Jesus 
and Mary were the first, which Marie Vianney made 
her children pronounce. The first gesture she 
taught them was the sign of the cross. She 
accustomed them to regard sin as the worst evil 
which could befall them. Adapting, though no 
doubt unconsciously, the beautiful words of a queen, 
this peasant woman used to say : " I could have no 
greater grief than to see one of my children offend 
God." One day, when repeating this to Jean Marie, 
she added with emotion : " My little Jean Marie, my 
grief would be even greater if it were thee." 

He was, in fact, her favourite. Even before his 
birth she had prayed to God to take her child, one 
day, into His service. As soon as she saw a special 
inclination towards piety in him, she set her heart 
on developing it. 

For this reason, her son always showed himself 



4 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

exceedingly grateful to her to the end of his life. 
When one of his assistants congratulated him on 
having so early had a love for prayer : " I owe it to 
my mother," he replied, '* she was so good." He 
said also to the same priest, when speaking of her : 
" Virtue passes easily from a mother into the hearts 
of her children, who readily copy what they see her 
do." 

Whenever he wanted to teach the mothers in his 
parish how they should bring up their children, he 
proposed as a model, the education he had received 
from his. Brought up by this excellent Christian, 
Jean Marie early became very pious. While quite 
a little child, he one day disappeared, and was 
found kneeling in a corner of the stable ; ab- 
sorbed in prayer, he had not even heard them call 
him. He used to pray when going to his work, in 
the meadows, while keeping his sheep, and in the 
fields when he was digging. After the midday meal 
he lay down on the ground to rest like the others ; 
but while they were sleeping, he only pretended to 
do so, praying to God meanwhile with all his heart, 
For to him prayer was duty, recreation and joy. 

Again it was prayer which gave him the strength 
he needed for digging the rich and loamy soil, in 
which the peasants, living on the outskirts of Lyons, 
grow such beautiful fruit. The first time he was em- 
ployed in the hard toil of the vineyard he went home 
quite exhausted. The next day he placed a small 
statue of the Blessed Virgin, at a short distance 
from the spot where he had to begin his work ; and 
with his eyes fixed upon it for encouragement, he 



HIS HOME EDUCATION 5 

advanced digging and praying, moving the statue 
further every time he reached it ; and this he con- 
tinued doing till the evening. On that day he had 
finished his task before his elder brother; and hence- 
forth he always relied on prayer, to increase the 
strength of his arms tenfold. 

In his prayers he showed both reserve and 
courage : sometimes he isolated himself and spent 
part of the day in intimate communion with God ; at 
others, he ventured to propose that his companions 
should join him. " How happy I was," he said, some 
months before his death, " when I had only my three 
sheep and my ass to look after ! I could then pray 
to God whenever I wished." 

Jean Marie reached the age of reason just when 
the churches of France were closed. At the moment 
when he began to need a priest, he saw them pro- 
scribed. This was a terrible trial for the pious 
child, but one which determined his vocation. 

It made him feel the necessity of the apostolate 
and the cruel position of a flock without a shepherd. 
He was not long in recognising with dismay, into 
what depths of ignorance many of his little comrades 
were plunged, whose mother had not, like his own, 
been capable of replacing the cure as a catechist; 
and very often for their sakes he tried to be one 
himself. 

He would assemble them at the foot of an impro- 
vised altar of grass, where he had placed a statue, 
invite them to recite their prayers, and repeat those 
which he had learnt from his mother. Then he 
would preach a naive little sermon such as this: 



6 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

*' Come my children, be very good, and love the good 
God with all your hearts." 

Not one of the youthful audience ever thought 
of smiling, so pure and ardent was the zeal of their 
little preacher, and his mother rejoiced that, by his 
young lips, some fragments of Christian instruction 
were given to these poor little shepherd boys, who 
could no longer receive any in their village church. 

At the same time that he was brought to recognise 
the deplorable blank, caused by the absence of the 
parish priest, Jean Marie had an opportunity of 
learning the worth of true, priestly souls. For in 
spite of sentences of exile and death, the sacred 
ministry still continued to be exercised everywhere. 

In the Diocese of Lyons, it was regularly organised. 
M. Linsolas, the Vicar-General of Mgr. de Marboeuf, 
had portioned out the eight or nine parishes of 
his diocese, into forty or fifty mission stations. One 
of these mission centres was established at EcuUy, 
a village situated between Lyons and Dardilly. 
The missionaries of this group were M. M. Royer 
and Chaillou of the Society of St Sulpice, one of 
whom had been the Econome, the other the Director 
of the Grand Seminaire of Lyons, M. Bailey, 
formerly Canon of the Church of St Genevieve, and 
M. Groboz, who had been vicar of the parish of 
St Cross, at Lyons. 

All four of them were men of indomitable energy 
who, while the Terror was at its height, had risked 
their lives a hundred times to carry consolation to 
those Catholics, who had remained faithful. 

They settled at EcuUy, lodging separately; and 



HIS HOME EDUCATION 7 

disguised as workmen, assembled their parishioners as 
best they could in barns and woods. From Dardilly, 
Matthieu and Marie Vianney often went with their 
children to these clandestine meetings ; the distance 
was not great, and Marie Vianney, who was born at 
Ecully, had a married sister there. Thus Jean 
Marie, on several occasions, came into close contact 
with these good priests, on whose heads he well 
knew a price was set. One of them, after having 
been exiled, had returned to Lyons, thus incurring 
the greatest risks ; another had already been arrested 
and had escaped by some unknown means ; all were 
looked upon as doomed to death. They themselves 
had all the more reason to tremble for their lives, 
because at certain moments, when the persecution 
had slackened, they had ceased to take precautions, 
and had thus revealed their presence to persons, 
who were only awaiting the return of the evil days 
in order to denounce them ; and these evil days 
returned many times. But their peril only served 
to redouble the zeal of the heroic missionaries ; and 
increase the veneration with which they inspired 
their flocks. Thus it does not astonish us that the 
Cur^ d'Ars always cherished so exalted an idea of 
the priestly office, when we know that his first 
impressions of it were taken from the ministry of 
such devoted men. 

He kept a lasting memory of the day when, at the 
close of one of these offices celebrated under such 
dramatic circumstances, he had recourse for the 
first time in his life, to the sacerdotal ministry. 

He had been present with his mother at the mass 



8 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

of M. Groboz. The latter, struck with the astonish- 
ing piety the boy had shewn during the office, desired 
that he should be presented to him. Jean Marie, 
on being questioned, stated his name and age; he 
had just passed his eleventh year. 

" And how long is it since you last confessed ? " 
the missionary demanded. 

I have never yet confessed, was the answer. 

" Well, would you like to do so at once ? " 

Jean Marie was quite willing. Only God knows 
what passed in this first intimate conversation 
between the priest and him, who was, later on, to 
receive the confessions of so many sinners. But we 
may have some idea of it from words which, one day, 
escaped him in spite of his humility : " When I was 
young, I was quite ignorant of evil ; I have only 
learnt to know it in the confessional from the 
mouths of sinners." M. Groboz had doubtless never 
before met with a child, who had so nearly retained 
his baptismal innocence, although he had reached 
an age when, in less troublous times, he would 
already have made his First Communion. 

M. Groboz at once asked that Jean Marie might 
be prepared for this great act. For this reason his 
parents left him for some time at Ecully ; but un- 
foreseen obstacles having deferred the ceremony, 
Jean Marie returned to them. The next year he 
was sent back to Ecully, where he followed the 
Catechetical Instructions with fifteen other children, 
and was admitted to the Sacrament of Holy Com- 
munion. This took place in the house of the 
Comtesse de Pingon, but the precise date cannot 



HIS HOME EDUCATION 9 

be given. The young communicants went there 
separately at daybreak. 

It was in the hay-making time, and large waggons 
of dried grass were left standing before the windows, 
to protect from the eyes of the curious, those sixteen 
little culprits guilty of the heinous crime of making 
their First Communion. 

With what ecstasy must he, the most pious 
amongst them, have approached the Holy Table. 
There is no doubt he astonished his companions by 
his recollectedness, for, during the preceding days, 
whenever they had noticed him absorbed in prayer, 
they had said admiringly to each other : " Look at 
little Vianney, trying to emulate his good angel." 

Some years afterwards, Jean Marie witnessed 
another ceremony, which took place under quite 
different circumstances, but which also left an 
undying impression upon his young imagination. 
No restraint then marred the outburst of religious 
enthusiasm. 

From the belfry of Dardilly the bells pealed forth 
merrily; the streets were festooned with evergreens; 
the doors were draped with white cloth adorned 
with bunches of flowers, and the ground was strewn 
with rose-leaves. All the inhabitants of the village, 
the men bareheaded, the women veiled, marched 
two by two chanting the Pange lingua, and following 
the silver monstrance, which was carried in triumph 
past the houses. 

The Consulate had, in fact, re-opened the churches, 
and France was again beginning to celebrate, as in 
times past, the Feast of Corpus Christi. 



10 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

Jean Marie contemplated with rapture the pomp 
of these Catholic ceremonies, to which his eyes were 
so unaccustomed. His heart was overflowing with 
joy. Yet at the same time sad thoughts would 
obtrude themselves. He knew that the perse- 
cutions had decimated the clergy; and on seeing 
this crowd so eager to receive the Divine Word, he 
anxiously wondered if there would be enough apostles, 
to distribute the Bread of the Gospel to so many 
starving ones ; and he earnestly prayed, that there 
might be no lack of good cures, to supply the needs 
of these country places- 
God heard this prayer and granted it in a way 
that, at that time, Jean Marie would hardly have 
dared to conceive. But the time had not yet come 
when the child was to be taken from his surround- 
ings ; he still had much to learn from the simple life 
of the fields and from his parents' example. 

Several years elapsed between the day on which 
Jean Marie made his First Communion and that on 
which he began his studies : they were quite unevent- 
ful ones, but fertile in spiritual progress, for his 
virtues developed rapidly. His charity had now 
that refinement of delicacy, which is as sure a 
sign of saintliness, as the depth of certain thoughts 
is of genius. The Revolution had not stopped the 
daily procession of the poor to the house of the 
Vianneys ; and from henceforth, the most repugnant 
of them were the special objects of Jean Marie's 
predilection. He loved to use his skill on their 
behalf, and his clever fingers would fashion as if in 
play all kinds of rustic objects. He could even 



HIS HOME EDUCATION 11 

make quite life-like little statues out of clay. He 
removed the mud, dirt, and insects, with which 
these wretched people were covered, put their rags 
into the oven on a sort of screen he had con- 
structed for the purpose ; and then when he had 
seen them comfortably settled on the straw of the 
barn, clothed in their clean, dried garments, he 
would carefully purify the places they had occupied 
in the kitchen, so that his brothers might not feel 
any repugnance in sitting there. 

But it was not only wayfarers whom he assisted. 
He used to visit all the poor of Dardilly in 
their own homes. He would give them all he 
possessed, and interested his parents and brothers 
in their welfare. 

He persuaded Matthieu Vianney, already so 
generous, to make still more liberal gifts to the poor. 
He had no greater joy than to hear his father say: 
" Go and take some wood to that poor man, and load 
the donkey with as much as he can carry." 

His piety expanded freely, fanned by the breath of 
religious feeling, which the restoration of public 
worship had re-awakened in the rural districts. 
He availed himself of every opportunity, such as 
taking a tool to be repaired or performing an 
errand, to run to the village church and kneel 
before the tabernacle. 

He assisted at Mass as often as he could, and used 
to prolong his thanksgiving, still he never sacrificed 
to exercises of piety, his work, which he regarded 
as his chief duty. No one arrived on the field sooner 
than he, and there was not a better workman in 



12 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

the country. Besides, he did not need to go to 
church to be recollected, for he prayed without 
ceasing, and had no need when praying to recite 
mere formulas. Doubtless, he loved the traditional 
prayers of the Church, the Pater, Ave, Gloria, and 
the Rosary; and often meditated on the works, 
miracles, and Passion of the Divine Master. Every 
evening in order to feed the source of his devotion, 
he used to read some pages of the Gospel or the 
Lives of the Saints, with his mother and his sister 
Catherine, who after himself, were the two most 
pious persons in the family. He usually continued 
this reading when he had gone up to bed, and his 
brother, who shared his room, was often a witness 
of his attentive study. 

He was wonderfully good, patient, helpful, and 
gentle. Inclined as he was to mockery, being quick 
of perception and apt at repartee, he never allowed 
any but benevolent words to fall from his lips, and 
even humbly accepted reproaches which he had not 
merited. His gaiety was so frank, that every eye 
brightened at his coming ; and his purity was such, 
that when he joined a group every tongue was 
paralysed, that strove to utter an immoral jest. 

This true child of the soil loved to cultivate 
the land, which his father had inherited. First of 
all he began by keeping sheep with his little sister 
Marguerite. As he grew up he was employed in rather 
laborious work, but of that interesting variety, which 
belongs to the cultivation of the soil, in a country 
where land is portioned out in small allotments, and 
the ground will produce crops of every kind. He used 



HIS HOME EDUCATION 13 

to sow and reap corn, maize, and buckwheat ; mow 
hay and clover ; dig, and dress the vines ; cut wood 
from the beech tree ; knock down nuts with a pole 
and carefully gather the peaches from the espaliers. 

The spectacle of ever-changing nature sharpened 
his powers of observation, so that he imperceptibly 
acquired an ample provision of picturesque images 
for his future Catechisings, in which gems of ex- 
pression would sparkle in phrases scarcely correct. 
Above all, his faith was confirmed in that Divine 
Providence, who seems to have wished the hus- 
bandman everywhere to recognise His Presence, by 
making the success of field labour depend on a mar- 
vellous concourse of phenomena, the government 
of which has almost entirely escaped the skill of 
our modern science. 

He thus reached his seventeenth year. From his 
earliest infancy, his companions had several times 
declared that he would be a priest, and his mother 
had never ceased to desire it. M. Groboz, too, had no 
sooner made his acquaintance than he expressed the 
same desire. He himself had long felt within him 
an imperious call, which had become the guiding 
motive of his whole life. His Confessor on being 
consulted, advised him to begin his studies at once. 
His mother and his aunt from EcuUy, Marguerite 
Humbert, to whom he had confided his plans, were 
both delighted, and advised him to take his father 
into his confidence. But at the first mention of it, 
Matthieu Vianney answered, that being obliged to 
give a dowry to his daughter Catherine, and to buy 
off his eldest son from the conscription, he was not 



14 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

rich enough to send the younger one to the Seminary. 
In spite of this decided refusal, Jean Marie did not 
lose all hope. It was not indeed lightly that he had 
formed the design of devoting himself to God; and 
no one knew better than he the signs of a real 
vocation. 

As a proof of this, it was at this very moment, 
when he himself, in spite of all the obstacles raised 
by his father, still continued firmly to believe he 
would be a priest that, on being consulted by a 
friend, who thought he had a vocation for the 
religious life, he dissuaded him from entering the 
cloister, and advised him to remain with his aged 
parents. 

Early in 1805 he was able to realise his most 
cherished desire. M. Bailey, a former colleague of 
M. Groboz in the mission at Ecully, who, since the 
Concordat had become Cure of Ecully, opened a 
school for ecclesiastical students, in which Madame 
Vianney persuaded her husband, their son could 
pursue his studies at very little expense. Matthieu 
Vianney therefore consented that he should be in- 
troduced to M. Bailey ; and the latter, who had at 
first hesitated to take such an old pupil, had scarcely 
seen him when he exclaimed : " Oh, as for this one, 
I accept him ; re-assure yourself my friend, I will 
sacrifice myself for you, if necessary." 

But what did his new disciple know of all that a 
candidate for the priesthood usually knows at nine- 
teen ? He had only a few notions of arithmetic, 
history, and geography, learnt either at the school 
M. Dumas had kept for two or three years at Dar- 



HIS HOME EDUCATION 15 

dilly, or during the few months he had spent at 
Sister Combet's, at Ecully, when preparing for his 
First Communion. This was all, and indeed it 
seemed almost nothing. And yet, Jean Marie was 
nearer the goal, than if he had spent ten years at 
college. 

It was not indeed an orator for the pulpit of Notre 
Dame, nor a great Doctor of the Church, that God 
had prepared in this remote corner of the Lyonnais. 
If at that time religion had need of apologists 
in France to defend it against the arguments of 
sceptics, it had still greater need of country cur^s 
to demonstrate, by the sanctity of their lives, the 
truth of the Gospel, in which the people had ceased 
to believe. The child from Dardilly had been 
chosen, from among all others, to be the model of 
those holy priests, who are indispensable to the 
execution of the divine plan. This was why Provid- 
ence, having caused him to be born in the heart of 
the country, had made him a husbandman for more 
than twenty years ; and this was why, before being 
confided to masters, with whom he was to learn a 
little Latin, he had been left to the training of two 
peasants, who in teaching him to love Jesus Christ 
and the poor, as no one else could have done, gave 
him the knowledge more indispensable than any 
other to fit him to accomplish his mission. 



CHAPTER II 

HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD 

'T'HE time passed in his studies was, for young 
Vianney, one of continuous trial ; this would 
astonish us did we not easily discover the meaning 
of it, by looking at the rest of his marvellous life. 
God wished to destroy even the feeblest germs of 
pride in a soul, which later on, He was to endow with 
His highest gifts, and to show more clearly the 
action of His grace in His servant's works, by ex- 
posing all the deficiencies in an education, which 
was one day to be supernaturally completed by such 
sublime intuitions. 

Jean Marie Vianney was not wanting in intelligence. 
He had even good abilities, which would certainly 
have gained him distinction had he commenced his 
studies earlier. But he began them too late, and his 
elementary instruction was far too superficial. 

All study was difficult to him in the beginning, for 
he learnt slowly and his memory was unretentive ; 
it seems however that the lessons were well taught, 
and that his Professor was good. Whenever he 
stumbled at a difficulty, and he encountered one at 
every step, Jean Marie had recourse to a fellow- 
student, Matthias Loras, whose father had shed his 
blood for the faith. He was a very brilliant pupil, 

i6 



HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD 17 

and fully realised all that was expected of his 
talents and virtues. He founded the Episcopal 
See of Dubuque, and later on, in the United States, 
earned the title of the Apostle of the West. 

In spite of his own good will, and the kind 
assistance of others, young Vianney could not get 
on with his Latin. To obtain help from Heaven, he 
had recourse to supernatural means : he prayed, and 
it was an admirable sight, which Ecully long re- 
membered, to see the young man serving the Mass 
of his pious teacher. He delighted in almsgiving, and 
would give away all he had in his purse to the poor 
whom he met. He mortified his self-love in fulfilling 
all the duties of a servant at the Presbytery, such 
as sawing wood, and digging in the garden : he 
mortified his senses, and used to beg his hostess, 
his Aunt Marguerite Beluze, wife of Fran9ois 
Humbert, to prepare his soup with no other season- 
ing than a little salt ; and was quite unhappy if she 
forgot to obey his injunctions. 

In the midst of these trials, he received the 
Sacrament, which bestows the spirit of intelligence. 
Bonaparte, then at the Head of the State, had in- 
stalled his maternal uncle, Joseph Fesch, in the fore- 
most See of France ; and the new Archbishop made 
a visitation throughout his diocese, sparing himself 
no fatigue, but raising his aged hands each day to 
bless, confirm, and administer Holy Communion. 

During the Lent of 1807, he came to visit Ecully. 
From all the neighbouring villages crowds flocked 
thither, to accompany the children, the youths, and 
those of riper age whom he was going to confirm. 



18 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

It was so long since these good people had seen a 
bishop that, in spite of the rigour of an exception- 
ally cold winter, they lined the whole length of the 
road where the Cardinal's carriage was to pass, and 
the moment they caught sight of him, they fell on 
their knees in the snow. It was in the midst of 
an enormous affluence of the faithful that young 
Vianney received the rite of confirmation. He was 
glad that this Sacrament should be conferred on 
him in the village of Ecully, so endeared to him 
by memories of his first Confession and Communion, 
as well as because his mother was born there. It 
was on this occasion that he took the name of Baptiste, 
which he henceforth added to his signature Jean 
Marie, and in thus placing himself under the protec- 
tion of the Precursor, whose food was locusts, and 
who declared himself " unworthy to unloose the 
latchet of Christ's shoe," he proclaimed his desire 
of meriting, through mortification and humility, the 
right to be the minister of those Sacraments which 
regenerate souls. 

But God seemed to pay no heed to all his per- 
serverance ; and Jean Marie, becoming discouraged, 
had doubts of his vocation, and asked permission to 
visit his parents. His master objected. "Why do 
you wish to go, my child ? " said he. " You know that 
your father will be only too glad to have you with 
him ; and seeing your sadness, he will keep you at 
home, and then farewell to all our plans, farewell 
to the priesthood, and the salvation of souls." 

Encouraged by this conversation he resolved to 
do violence to Heaven, and made a vow to go on foot 



HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD 19 

from Ecully to the Louvesc to the tomb of Francis 
Regis, the Apostle of the Cevennes, begging his 
bread as he went. His journey was one long 
martyrdom ; for in every farm, where this vigorous 
young man asked alms, he was taken for a vagabond, 
and received more insults than bread. But his faith 
was rewarded, and on his return he was astonished 
to see how easily he could learn. This made him 
very grateful to St Francis Regis, and he placed his 
portrait in the Presbytery, and his statue in the 
Church of Ars. 

But his satisfaction was short-lived, for hardly had 
he recovered from this trial, than he was confronted 
by another, which would have crushed a less resolute 
character. 

Although none of the ecclesiastical students except 
those who had taken Orders, were dispensed from 
military service by Napoleon, Cardinal Fesch had 
succeeded in obtaining an exemption for all the 
seminary pupils of his diocese. Hence young 
Vianney had not been called upon to serve. But 
in 1809 the Emperor had such need of men for the 
war with Spain, that he withdrew all these con- 
cessions, and M. Bailey's pupil received marching 
orders. Matthieu Vianney, touched by his son's 
despair, made a great effort and bought a substitute. 
But the day after he had paid the first crowns, he 
found them deposited on the threshold, and the 
young man who had consented to take the con- 
script's place, was sought for in vain. 

In fact he was never seen again, and Jean Marie 
was obliged to go. As grief had made him quite ill. 



20 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

they took him to the Hotel Dieu at Lyons, and 
afterwards to the hospital at Roanne ; and in both 
these houses he edified all who approached him by 
his resignation. Scarcely had he recovered when 
his regiment received orders to march towards the 
Spanish frontier. 

We must here record an episode in the life of the 
Cure d'Ars, which has perplexed more than one of 
his admirers. His first biographer, the Abbe 
Monnin, insufficiently informed, and doubtless un- 
willing to admit, that M. Vianney could be even 
suspected of doing anything reprehensible, acquitted 
him of all responsibility by explaining it as a 
miraculous intervention. What really happened was 
simply this. 

At daybreak, he went to the church to ask for 
God's protection on his journey. So absorbed was 
he in prayer, that he lost count of time, and found 
on returning to the barracks that his comrades had 
set out without him. The recruiting captain wished 
at first to imprison him, but the young soldier's good 
faith was so evident that, without any further repri- 
mand, he ordered him to shoulder his knapsack and 
join his regiment. He set off bravely and marched 
the whole day ; but having only just recovered from 
a long illness he was quite exhausted with fatigue 
by nightfall, when a young man accosted him, re- 
lieved him of his knapsack, offered to be his guide, 
and led the way. Having followed him in all con- 
fidence, Jean Marie found himself, not at the camp 
but, at Noes, a village hidden in the midst of woods 
on the confines of the AUier and the Loire. 



HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD 21 

This district of the Cevennes was peopled by 
deserters, and the young man who had conducted 
Jean Marie was one of them. Young Vianney thus 
found himself in surroundings where the Imperial 
rule was execrated, and where nobody considered it 
criminal to evade the conscription ordered by 
Napoleon. 

On the day after his arrival at Noes, he introduced 
himself to the Mayor of the village. The latter, on 
hearing that the new-comer was still at his studies, 
fancied that he had found the kind of man so 
much needed and yet so rarely met with in rural 
districts, at that time : namely, a schoolmaster. He 
asked him to open a school ; and to put the police 
off the scent, he made him take the name of Jerome 
Vincent. Thus it was owing to the express advice 
of the Mayor of Noes that young Vianney became 
a deserter. 

Jerome Vincent settled down in the hamlet of 
Robin, lodging with Madame Fayot, whom every one 
called " Mother Fayot," and who was worthy of 
sheltering such a guest under her roof. Indeed, in 
this humble woman, living in a remote village of the 
Cevennes, there was such a beautiful union of 
Christian virtues that the Cure d'Ars declared long 
afterwards that he had never known two more 
saintly souls than M. Bailey and Madame Fayot, 
though he owned to having known *• many holy men 
and women." 

The schoolmaster of Robin met with much success. 
He knew so well how to manage children that, when 
they returned to their parents, most of them begged 



22 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

to be allowed to go back again to their master until 
evening. Then a new class began, more attractive 
than the other, in which they were told stories from 
the Gospel and the Lives of the Saints. Soon it 
was not only the children who were won over, but 
the whole village became his scholars, for the Cure 
of Noes, charmed to have found such a valuable 
helper in his parish, pointed out to him, that it 
would be a mission worthy of his zeal, to cause the 
evenings so often spent in frivolous pastime, to be 
used for the glory of God. So after supper Jean 
Marie used to go sometimes to one house, sometimes 
to another. He was always welcomed with deference, 
and would keep his audience spell-bound, by his 
tales full of charm and edification. 

When the return of summer robbed him of his 
pupils, he offered his services first to his host and 
then to his neighbours, and the fields of Noes saw 
him, as did formerly those of Dardilly, praying 
unceasingly, that he might work the better. How- 
ever, at EcuUy and Dardilly, every one thought 
him dead, except M. Bailey, who had never doubted 
that Providence had destined his pupil to save many 
souls. Matthieu and Marie Vianney were inconsol- 
able; and to the grief caused by the loss of their 
child, was added the annoyance of having to con- 
tend with the gendarmes, who persisted in main- 
taining that the young conscript had been hidden 
by his parents, and continually threatened them 
with fines or imprisonment. 

At length, after long months of silence, they knew 
their son's fate. While he was suffering from 



HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD 23 

a severe attack of pleurisy, from having worked too 
hard in the hay fields, Madame Fayot also became 
ill. Being obliged to take the waters of Char- 
bonnieres, she brought a letter from Jean Marie and 
gave it to his parents as she passed through Dardilly. 
Madame Vianney wept for joy, but her husband, 
though glad to hear that his son was living, was vexed 
to know he was a deserter, and ordered him to give 
himself up without delay to the military authorities. 
Then ensued a rivalry in goodwill, which ended by 
simplifying this unfortunate complication. Fran9ois, 
the youngest son of Matthieu Vianney, offered to 
enlist before his time, on condition that his brother 
should make over to him three thousand francs of 
his future inheritance ; and the recruiting Captain, 
the same who, after wishing to imprison Jean Marie, 
had sent him off alone en route for Spain, now 
agreed that the younger should replace the elder 
brother, and struck off the name of the latter from 
the lists. 

When it was known at Noes that they were going 
to lose the " Saint," as every one called him, there 
was great sorrow ; but mingled with it was the joy, 
which these Christian people felt in knowing that he 
was to return to his studies, and to the service of 
God. From every house humble presents poured in 
upon him, for these good people wished to provide 
him with everything, they even gave him the first 
cassock he was to wear. One poor woman, who 
possessed nothing but a pig and a goat, obliged him 
to accept the price of the pig, being desirous of 
contributing her part to the modest household of 



24 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

the future Cure d'Ars. He never forgot the two 
winters he spent in the little village of the 
Cevennes; and later on, when he had thoughts of 
quitting the ministry, for which he considered himself 
too unworthy, it is believed that it was to Noes he 
had decided to retire. 

Jean Marie Vianney had just returned to his 
studies at Ecully, when he lost his mother. It was 
she who had inspired him with his desire for the 
priesthood, who had received his first confidences, 
who had always sustained and encouraged him 
in the difficulties his plans had encountered, and 
now at the moment, when new obstacles were to 
arise against his vocation, he was deprived of the 
tender affection, in which he would have found his 
greatest support. 

In November 1812 M. Bailey sent him to study 
philosophy at Verri^res, the only Petit Seminaire in 
the diocese of Lyons, which had re-opened its doors 
after all the others had been closed by order of 
Napoleon. There, far greater trials were awaiting 
him than he had undergone at Ecully. Having en- 
tered, at twenty-six years of age, among two hundred 
pupils younger than himself, he was not only ranked 
among the lowest, but considered incapable of fol- 
lowing the course of philosophy in Latin, as it was 
then given in the Petits Seminaires ; and with six of his 
companions he received this instruction in French. 

One may be a model of humility, and yet 
not willingly become the butt of a whole school. 
The Cure d'Ars owned later on, that while at 
Verri^res he had had to suffer "somewhat." Those 



HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD 25 

who knew how reserved he was in speaking of 
himself have no hesitation in translating somewhat 
by " cruelly." He was too modest to imagine that 
three-fourths of his fellow-students had no other 
superiority over him except that of a good memory, 
still less did he suspect that philosophy could have 
been taught in a more interesting manner. 

He believed himself to be really very incapable 
and was much distressed about it. Even his piety 
was not at first specially remarked; and for some 
time, neither his fellow-students nor his masters, 
gave him any encouragement. 

But his ardent zeal for souls inspired him with 
strength, and at Verrieres, as at Ecully, he ended 
by making progress. 

Still he was too badly prepared in philosophy to 
succeed. This he recognised, when, in order to 
enter the Grand Seminaire, he had to undergo an 
examination on the subjects which he had been 
taught while at Verrieres. Fully conscious of his in- 
competence, questioned too in Latin and intimidated 
by the presence of Cardinal Fesch, he was quite 
bewildered, could not answer, and found himself 
publicly declared incapable of entering the diocese 
of Lyons. It was a rude blow, but he bore it bravely. 
His humility was increased, while his confidence 
remained unshaken. He had just heard himself 
excluded from the priesthood, when one of the 
students, who had passed brilliantly in the same ex- 
amination, the future Cardinal Donnet, was induced 
to speak to him ; he was so struck by his attitude, 
that he could never forget their conversation. 



26 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

Before pronouncing his final rejection, M. Bailey 
persuaded them to confide young Vianney to him ; 
and some months later at Ecully, before M. Bochard, 
the Vicar-General, and M. Gardette, the Superior 
of the Grand Seminaire, he underwent a fresh 
examination, in which he satisfied his judges. In 
fact these few months had sufficed to give him a 
fairly good philosophical education. For at Ecully 
he had met with a master who, with perhaps less 
science than the professors of Verrieres, was more 
versed in the great book of life, and knew how to 
give a practical turn to his lessons and draw philo- 
sophic conclusions from all he read or saw. Under 
his intelligent discipline, M. Vianney's intellect 
rapidly expanded ; and in the course of the year 1814 
he was at length able to enter the Grand Seminaire. 

There, as at Ecully, he was remarked for his piety 
and even temper, his goodness and submission to 
the rule, rather than by his learning, though at first 
he did not show any more aptitude for theology than 
he had shown for philosophy. But M. Gardette, who 
had had some experience of men, gave him as tutor 
M, Duplay, his most distinguished pupil, causing 
them to share a room together as he foresaw 
that the two young men would soon become great 
friends. 

They often held long discussions, to which the one 
brought the vivacity of his intelligence, the other 
the ardour of his piety, and which left them both 
all the more worthy of the missions awaiting them, 
the latter at Ars, the former at the Grand Seminaire 
of Lyons, where he became superior. 



HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD 27 

There was, at this time, such great need of priests 
that, in 1814, after only a few months of theological 
study, it was proposed to make M. Vianney sub- 
deacon. But it was doubtful if Holy Orders could 
be conferred on such an ill-instructed seminarist 
as he. Mgr. Courbon desired to question him himself, 
and afterwards declared he was quite satisfied. " You 
know," he said to him, " as much as many other 
Cures." When the Directors of the Seminary came to 
learn his decision he asked them : " Is young Vianney 
pious ? Does he know how to recite his rosary ? 
Has he any devotion to the Blessed Virgin ?" 

For piety, they answered: " He is the model of the 
whole seminary." 

" Very well then," he added, " I will receive him, 
the grace of God will do the rest." 

M. Vianney was made sub-deacon on July 2nd, by 
Mgr. Claude Simon, Bishop of Grenoble, who repre- 
sented Cardinal Fesch. When the procession of 
the newly ordained quitted the primatlal church of 
St John to proceed, according to custom, to the 
Square Croix Paquet, where the Grand Seminaire 
was situated, the burning ardour of M. Vianney's 
gaze, and the transport of joy with which he chanted 
the Benedictus, so impressed his companions, that 
they at once applied to him the words of Holy 
Scripture. " This is he," they thought, '• who will be 
the prophet of the Most High, the one among us all 
who will do the greatest things in the service of God." 

M. Vianney finished his third year of theology in 
1815, in the midst of the convulsions which then 
agitated France, and caused disturbances even in the 



28 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

Grands Seminaires, but especially in that one in 
a diocese, which was still under the jurisdiction of 
Napoleon's uncle. 

He heard his companions curse the returned exile 
from Elba, he saw them refuse to chant the prayer 
for the Emperor, and even, on one occasion, avoid the 
benediction of their Archbishop. For himself, he 
suffered chiefly from not being able peacefully to 
pursue his studies, which he wanted so much to 
complete. He obtained permission to finish them at 
Ecully, where, under M. Bailey's direction, he learnt 
much in a short time. 

He was ordained deacon on June 23rd 1815, a 
glorious date in the annals of the Diocese of Lyons, 
for on that day three among those who took deacon's 
orders were destined to be canonised : the Blessed 
Vianney ; the Venerable Champagnat, the Founder 
of the Petits Freres de Marie, whose cause has been 
introduced at the court of Rome, and Pere Colin, 
Founder of the Marists, whose process is now being 
examined at the same court. 

M. Vianney's two companions did not enter the 
priesthood till the following year. But he, being 
older, was soon invited to go to Grenoble, where he 
was ordained by Mgr. Simon on August 13th, the 
thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, in the ancient 
chapel of the Minims, which was then the chapel of 
the Grand Seminaire. There was no other candidate : 
but the bishop said that one could not take too much 
trouble in ordaining a good priest. 

M. Vianney was twenty-nine years of age. More 
than twelve years had elapsed since, at the first call 



HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD 29 

of God, he had answered, " Here am I, Lord," and 
during these twelve years God, after having accepted 
his generous offering, had seemed as if He no longer 
wanted him. His father had for a long time refused 
to pay the money necessary for his education ; the 
conscription had snatched him from his studies 
almost before he had fairly begun them ; twice he 
had been overtaken by illness; at Ecully and at 
Verrieres his instruction had been attended with 
such difficulties and such apparent, though not 
real, want of success, that the doors of the Grand 
Seminaire had been nearly closed against him, and 
its Directors had hesitated to admit him to Holy 
Orders. But at length in spite of all he was a priest ; 
and thanks to the mortifications which so many 
trials had imposed upon his self-love, thanks to the 
continual acts of faith and charity by which he had 
sought for strength, he was now ready to fulfil his 
mission, and destined to become not only a good 
priest, according to the wish expressed by M. Simon 
for him on the eve of his ordination, but the model, 
which the Church would one day propose for the 
imitation of the clergy of our own times. He was 
too accustomed to humiliate himself to believe he 
could ever arrive at perfection ; called upon to 
struggle against the spiritual evidence of a whole 
population plunged in spiritual lethargy, he had learnt 
during his laborious studies, that human will is 
capable of every effort, if aided by divine grace. 
Later on he summed up the r61e of a cur^ in these 
two maxims. " A cure must never persuade himself 
that he can no longer do any good in his parish, how- 



30 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

ever sterile his efforts may hitherto have been, and 
he ought never to think, however much he may have 
done, that he has done enough. Who does not see 
that his education had prepared him to form this 
conception of the duties of a priest, and to fulfil it ? 

One last trial was laid upon him which proved to 
be a means of instruction : he, who had desired 
to be a priest especially to save souls, was for- 
bidden to administer to them that sacrament of 
penance, which is the chief instrument of their 
salvation. 

This humiliation, however, brought him great 
happiness and grace, for M. Courbon, convinced 
that no one knew how to complete his sacerdotal 
education like the master who had hitherto 
taught him everything, nominated him vicaire at 
Ecully. 

There the Abbe Vianney re-commenced his theo- 
logical studies. Every day M. Bailey gave him a 
lesson in dogma and morals ; and submitted to him 
cases of conscience, demanding prompt and well- 
reasoned answers, tending towards the most liberal 
solutions. 

When he judged that this mental training had 
attained its purpose, he asked that his vicaire might 
be empowered to confess him; and* it was over 
the head of this saintly old man that the hand, 
which was afterwards to absolve so many hardened 
sinners, was raised for the first time. 

Soon the Abbe Vianney obtained permission to 
confess the whole parish ; those who had recourse 
to him were so satisfied with the wisdom of his 



HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD 31 

direction that, later on, many of them undertook the 
journey from Ecully to Ars, rather than be deprived 
of his counsels. However, his virtue grew with 
his knowledge. He was lodged, according to the 
custom of the Diocese of Lyons, in the house of his 
cure, and became the constant companion of his 
daily life. 

He shared his exercises of piety and his mortifica- 
tions, recited his breviary with him, and, many times 
a day, made acts of love of God ; following his ex- 
ample, he would remain for hours motionless before 
the altar; at his table he ate potatoes prepared 
several days before, and beef which had turned quite 
black, from having been kept too long. 

The whole of his stipend went into the hands of 
the poor, just as his earnings had done when he was 
a young man, and any clothes that were given him 
went the same way ; he possessed literally nothing 
except what he wore. 

He continued as at Dardilly, to give his heart with 
his money. The sick were the objects of his prefer- 
ence : he made them short but frequent visits, having 
a marvellous power of consoling them when their 
sufferings were prolonged, and of preparing them for 
death when the hour of their departure arrived. 

It was in his arms that his venerable cure passed 
gently away on the 16th of December 1817, at the 
age of sixty-nine. Exhausted by labours and fasting. 
M. Bailey had been confined to his room, with an 
ulcer in his leg for more than a year. Some days 
before his death he confessed to his vicaire, and 
received the Viaticum and Extreme Unction ; then, 



32 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

in the presence of the clergy, of the neighbours, 
and a few parishioners, he asked pardon for any wrong 
he might have done them. When he found himself 
alone with his dear child, as he called him, he gave 
him his instruments of penance, wishing, in his 
humility, that they should not be discovered on his 
body. He was followed to the Cemetery by Abbe 
Loras, then the Superior of the little Seminary 
of Meximieux, and by Abbe Vianney; and of all 
the good works in which his exemplary life had 
abounded, the greatest was that of having trained 
these two pupils.^ 

Some weeks later a cure, who had only just taken 
possession of his charge, died at Ars in the Doubes. 
Mgr. Courbon at once sent for M. Vianney. " My 
friend," he said to him, " you are named Cure of Ars. 
It is a small parish, where there is not much love of 
God. You will enkindle it." 

In sending its new cure to the parish of Ars, the 
Vicar-General did not foresee that the Department 
of Ain was to be separated from the Diocese of 
Lyons, and that the most holy of his priests would 
soon exercise his ministry in the Diocese of Belley, 

^ Abbe Monnin affirms, and I do not know on what grounds, 
that the inhabitants of Ecully, whose real pastor M. Vianney had 
been for a year, asked to have him as cure. I have heard it said 
that they manifested, on the contrary, the desire that such a simple 
priest should not be placed at the head of their parish. Whether 
they made any overtures in either sense, it must have been orally, 
for no traces exist of them in the archives in the Archbishop's house 
at Lyons. I cannot therefore determine what the real feelings of 
the inhabitants of Ecully were in regard to their vicaire. In any 
case, soon after the death of M. Bailey M. Tripier, and not M . 
Vianney, was appointed his successor. 



HIS TRAINING FOR THE PRIESTHOOD 33 

although Dardilly, his birthplace, was still to remain 
in its original see. 

Early in February 1818, the Abbe Vianney set 
out, in order to kindle a little love for God in his 
small parish, where forty-two years later he was to 
die, after having converted it into a burning centre, 
from which the love of God spread throughout the 
Dombes, Burgundy, the Lyonnais, and the whole 
Kingdom of France. 



CHAPTER III 

THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS 

A RS, situated on the verge of the great uplands 
in the Principality of the Dombes, has no dis- 
tinctive character of its own. 

Just before reaching it on the route from Lyons, 
the chain of wooded hills, whose graceful outline 
is mirrored in the cool waters of the Saone, abruptly 
ends; and, a little beyond it, in the direction of 
Bourg, begins that region, the melancholy beauty of 
which a great artist has caught and immortalised in 
his chefs-d'oeuvre, representing knotted elms and 
great, lone, stagnant pools, haunted by flights of wild 
fowl. A tame horizon, a yellowish soil, sparse 
hedges, a double row of elders each side of a little 
stream, the ancient castle of the d'Ars family half 
hidden in a clump of trees, with a few brick and 
mortar houses clustering round an insignificant 
church : this is what the Abbe Vianney dimly saw, 
when he entered his new parish, at nightfall one 
evening in the February of 1818. What a contrast 
to EcuUy and DardiUy 1 

Still less, in its moral aspect, did Ars remind its 
new cure of the two villages, in which his life till 
now had been spent. 

It was not perhaps a thoroughly bad parish, but 

34 



THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS 35 

its people were indifferent and apathetic, eager 
only for pleasure. There were no regular offices 
besides the daily Mass and Sunday vespers, and, on 
week days, not more than two or three women were 
present. As to the men, on the least pretext they 
missed the Mass on Sunday, or if they did come, 
they showed every sign of weariness, and from the 
altar during the Holy Sacrifice, from the pulpit 
during his sermon, M. Vianney saw them sleeping, 
gaping, turning over the leaves of their books as if to 
see, as he told them ironically, if the printer had 
made any errors. 

Hardly had the celebrant left the altar, than there 
was a general rush towards the door, as if the whole 
parish were suddenly seized by an attack of sickness. 
Once in the open air, their chests would dilate, their 
hearts expand, their tongues begin wagging. 

"Assuredly," they cried, "the cur^ is doing his best 
to sicken every one of church, by his outrageously 
long sermons." 

It was useless to ask these poor people to be 
present at the evening office. The church, therefore, 
remained well-nigh empty during vespers, whilst the 
four village taverns were crammed to overflowing. 
Indeed, the good cure was only too glad when the 
chanting of the psalms was not drowned by the noise 
of drunkards stumbling over the stones, or the oaths 
of the players at bowls whenever they missed their 
aim. 

The most pious women only went to Communion 
on the great festivals of the Year ; many of the men 
were ashamed to perform their Easter duties, and 



36 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

one of them even asked M. Vianney, if he could not 
make his in the Sacristy, so that no one might see 
him. 

Their Patronal Feast of St Sixtus was a religious 
one in name only : the men celebrated it by a week's 
drunkenness, the young people by immoral dances 
and unbridled licence. 

No one at Ars would have stolen a sou from his 
neighbour's pocket, but very few had any scruples 
in painting an old horse, to conceal its defects, 
or in making up bundles of hemp in such a 
manner as to hide all the bad stalks. Fathers 
would only laugh when their children came with 
their aprons filled with radishes, pulled up they 
knew not where. They did not plough on Sundays, 
but there were other and less important things that 
they reserved for that day, such as mending their 
tools, and it seemed as if the Dominical observance 
had no reference to the harvest season ; for then, 
throughout the whole of Sunday morning, the roads 
were lined with waggons carrying home the hay, 
which, as the cure in his forcible language remarked, 
" were still more surely carrying souls to hell." 

Ars was not changed in one day ; it needed many 
years for it to shake off its torpor; but when the 
change was once accomplished, it was so wonderful, 
that priests, who stayed there for a few days, went 
away amazed. 

In all the country-side no blasphemy was heard, 
not a single labourer was to be seen at work on 
Sunday, stacks were left standing, even when the 
weather was threatening; and the peasants, when 



THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS 37 

strangers reproached them for their imprudence, 
answered, echoing their cure's words: "The hay 
would know how to take care of itself." 

Many of the women communicated every week. 
All the men fulfilled their Easter duties. 

No one was missing at the Sunday Mass. A great 
number were present at vespers, which were followed 
by Compline and the Rosary ; and in the evening, 
when the bells for the third time called the villagers 
to church, the houses were for the third time 
emptied. 

Every evening prayers were publicly recited 
before a large congregation. " We have once 
more regained our self-respect," said an inhabi- 
tant of Ars one day, for there was naturally 
progress in morality as well as in religion. There 
were no more drunkards lying in the ditches ; and 
the four taverns had been closed, one after the 
other, for want of customers. 

There was no longer any immorality among the 
young people. There were no more dissensions 
between relations nor quarrels between neighbours. 
The parish was the large family, where all helped each 
other. The children had lost the habit of stealingtheir 
neighbour's fruit ; and at the market of Trevoux every 
one could now believe all the peasants said, when 
they offered their cattle or their hemp for sale. 

"My brethren, Ars is no longer Ars," said the 
good cure at the end of the exercises ; and, render- 
ing a still more flattering testimony to his parish, 
he congratulated it on having become not only more 
Christian than in the past, but the most Christian 



38 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

parish he knew of. " I have been present at many 
missions," he said, ** and nowhere have I found such 
good sentiments as here." 

What M. Vianney did to change his parish is 
worth relating, as Bossuet says, " not because it is 
remarkable, but because it is not." And because the 
Cure d'Ars did nothing that another priest may not 
try to imitate." 

He knew that the mission of a cure is not that 
of a monk, that God wishes to make use of human 
means in order to attract men to Himself, and that the 
faith, which is not active, is not sincere. He worked 
then, worked unceasingly, making use of all the means, 
with which nature and education had provided him. 

Because his parishioners would not go to him, 
M. Vianney went to them. He was not contented 
with calling on every one on his arrival, but he made 
a habit of visiting regularly. Scarcely a day passed 
without his going to see some one or other. He 
would chose the hour of the midday meal, when all 
the family was assembled. He would greet the 
father familiarly by his Christian name, and then, 
without accepting even a glass of water, he used 
simply to lean against some piece of furniture and 
enter into conversation. His thorough knowledge 
of agriculture readily furnished him with a subject, 
and gave him an undisputed authority among his 
parishioners. They understood at once that their 
cur6 was one of themselves ; and many of them, 
before asking his advice as to the culture of their 
souls, would go to him for information about that 
of their fields. 



THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS 39 

But M. Vianney would not dwell at too much 
length on these merely terrestrial affairs ; very soon, 
and without any effort, he would begin to speak of 
heavenly things, saying just what was most suitable 
to his listeners, always showing great affability, even 
when they did not seem disposed to listen, and 
never making any reproaches even when they were 
most deserved. Besides, he was discreet enough 
not to outstay his welcome, and always left be- 
fore he could be considered importunate. They 
quickly grew accustomed to these visits and very 
soon regarded them as an honour, then they desired 
them as a consolation, and many were the souls 
brought home to God by means of these simple 
talks. 

Since his parishioners knew so little of their 
duties M. Vianney, in order to give them the instruc- 
tion they required, set himself a task which cost 
him the greatest effort and severest mortification. 

" My children," he once said to them in one of 
his catechizings, " the word of God is no vain thing. 
The first words of our Lord to his Apostles were 
these : ' Go and teach,' in order to show us that 
instruction is above all price. 

" For how is it my children, that we have any 
knowledge of our holy religion ? It is through the 
instruction we have had. What has given us a horror 
of sin, and makes us perceive the beauty of virtue, 
which inspires us with a desire for heaven ? Instruc- 
tion again, that instruction which teaches parents 
their duties to their children, and children their 
duties to their parents." 



40 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

Convinced as he was of the importance of this 
instruction, he devoted all the time, which was not 
taken up in prayer or parochial visitation, to the 
preparation of his Sunday discourses. Having 
chosen his subject, he would take down some of his 
favourite volumes from the library he had inherited 
from M. Bailey, such as the Familiar Instructions of 
Bonnardel, Cure of Semur-en-Brionnais; the Homilies 
of Messire Claude Joly, Bishop and Count of Agen ; 
the Sermons of Pere Lejeune ; Christian Perfection 
by Rodriguez, or the Lives of the Saints by 
Ribadeneira. When his reading was finished then 
the tortures of composition began, whether he con- 
tented himself with simply adapting a sermon or 
putting the borrowed doctrine into a new frame, the 
labour was the same: for he did not want to say 
anything that could not be thoroughly understood ; 
he desired to adapt to these uneducated rustics that 
which had been written for cultivated minds; and 
also that his preaching should profit by all that he 
had learnt from his own experience of life. 

What this popular eloquence was, from whence he 
drew his gift of persuasion, we shall try to explain 
later on: here we simply wish to point out what time 
and trouble he spent in his preparation. 

Seated before his modest table, the poor orator 
wrote, erased, corrected and saw the hours pass 
without any perceptible result ; sometimes he spent 
seven hours pen in hand, sometimes the whole night. 
He fought against sleep until his heavy eyes would 
close of themselves, then he would go away and 
snatch a few moments' slumber before his crucifix, 



THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS 41 

imitating, as he said, the little dog who crouches 
down at his master's feet. 

His sermon once composed, a last and still more 
painful effort w-as necessary, for he was obliged to 
commit to a treacherous memory the lines so 
laboriously written. M. Vianney devoted much 
time to this, and it often happened that he recited 
his lesson aloud, in order to retain it better. 

If in the end he was able to preach not only every 
Sunday, but every day, if he succeeded in giving his 
daily instruction without any preparation whatever, 
and with astonishing facility, it was no doubt 
because grace supplied what was wanting to nature ; 
still one can understand that such assiduous toil 
had already transformed nature. 

All those young priests who feel they have not the 
gift of public speaking, and who dread having to preach, 
should make a pilgrimage to Ars. They would be 
shown M. Vianney's books, they would see those worn 
leaves, they might count the markers left in the pages, 
and the passages underscored. Before these proofs 
of ardent labour they might calculate the time which 
a man, to w^hom study was a real martyrdom, must 
have spent in reading. Then they would be inspired 
with real zeal for the salvation of souls, by recognis- 
ing the trouble which the cure of a village of only two 
hundred souls, took for his modest audience : above 
all they would own that no one had any right to be 
discouraged, seeing that one of the greatest of 
extempore preachers was obliged to devote several 
days each week, to composing a sermon of three- 
quarters of an hour's duration. 



42 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

Since his parishioners did not willingly take the 
road to the church, M. Vianney obliged them to seek 
him there. For there it was they had to go when- 
ever they wanted him. He really made it his 
home, and they saw him there praying with such 
fervour, that the sight of the radiant smile in his 
eyes, which the feeling of God's presence gave him, 
inspired them also with a desire to pray. 

To make the dwelling more worthy of its Host, 
and more attractive to visitors, M. Vianney under- 
took to restore and adorn it. The altar was falling 
into decay ; he had a new one constructed at his own 
cost. The wainscotting was worn ; he repaired and 
repainted it with his own hands. 

The ornaments were tawdry, he got the Vicomte 
d'Ars to give him chasubles, copes, a magnificent 
canopy, and a silver-gilt monstrance. The building 
was badly lit and ventilated; he enlarged it by 
adding several chapels. 

Two of these, one may say without exaggeration, 
afterwards became two of the most noted sanc- 
tuaries in our land. One was that Chapel of St 
John the Baptist, in which was the confessional 
of the Cure d'Ars, where every day, for thirty 
years, tears streamed from eyes to which tears 
had long since been unknown, where thousands 
of persons living bad lives came and renounced 
their evil habits, where noble resolves were 
formed in many hearts until then untouched by 
any generous impulse, where such wonderful con- 
versions took place, that he who was instru- 
mental in them exclaimed: "One will never know 



THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS 43 

until the Day of Judgment all the good which has 
been accomplished here." 

The other chapel was dedicated to St Philomene, 
whose body had been discovered on the 25th of 
May 1802, in the Catacombs of St Priscilla. It 
is from this modest chapel that the devotion to the 
young Martyr has spread over the whole Catholic 
world. It is there, at the feet of the dear little 
Saint, as he called her, that the Cure of Ars sent 
those who came to ask him for healing of body or 
soul, and there it is that many of these unfortunate 
ones left their load of evil : it is there also that 
others heard the strengthening words, which enabled 
them to again take up bravely their burden of 
sorrowful life. But the time has not yet come to 
speak of the great things which took place in these 
little chapels ; and before the church at Ars could 
receive the visit of pilgrims from all parts of France, 
it was necessary that its cure should first know how 
to lead his own parishioners there. 

Not believing that he could accomplish everything 
by himself, he tried to discover persons whose good- 
will only needed to be awakened; he made them 
shake off their torpor, and then grouping them, in 
order to multiply their strength a hundredfold, he 
established the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacra- 
ment for the men, and the Confraternity of the 
Rosary for the women. 

At the head of the Confraternity of the Rosary 
were some of the " ames d'elite " ; Mile. Pignault, 
Claudine Renard, Mile. Lacon, modest women be- 
fore whom the historian of the Cure of Ars inclines 



44 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

respectfully, because they were the indefatigable 
assistants of his heroic charity; and their obscure 
names should be piously remembered, so that a 
little of the glory which surrounds the name of 
M. Vianney, should shed its lustre upon theirs. 
Mile. d'Ars, agreat lady, but a still greater Christian, 
of an ancient family whose numerous branches still 
cover all the Lyonese region, and whose members 
esteem themselves to-day less honoured by their 
distinguished alliances, than by the fact that a 
pious daughter of their house was able to help the 
Cure of Ars. 

When he sent him to his parish, M. Courbon had 
said to M. Vianney : " You will have a good deal of 
trouble there, but you will be helped by a brave 
lady," She was indeed brave in the noblest sense 
of the word : during the Revolution her mother and 
she had found it quite natural to remain on in their 
Chateau at Ars ; the Terror itself had not dislodged 
them. In 1818 she was sixty-four years old, very 
lively, clever, and witty, a good conversationalist, 
and an agreeable writer ; she would have had great 
success in the world, if she had followed her brother 
to Paris ; but she had no other ambition than to 
make a good preparation for death. She never 
left Ars. Her charities, which her modest way of 
living rendered princely, extended as far as Ville- 
franche. She had the intelligent devotion of past 
ages, and recited her breviary every day with her 
old man servant Saint-Phal. She was the first 
person at Ars to foresee that M. Vianney's virtues 
would attain an heroic degree, and of all the souls. 



THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OP ARS 45 

which he induced to follow in the ways of perfection, 
it was without doubt Mile. d'Ars who most nearly 
approached him in sanctity. 

From the men also M. Vianney met with support 
and consolation. There was one who, during the 
whole of his life, was the consolation of his cure, and 
whose memory was so dear that he never ceased 
holding him up to the admiration of his parish. 

This was an old peasant who every day went into 
the church before going to his labour in the fields, 
and again when he returned. There he used to 
remain for a long while quite motionless and mute, 
with his eyes fixed on the Tabernacle. 

" Pere Chaffangeon, what do you say to Our 
Lord during your visits ? " M. Vianney asked him 
one day, surprised at never seeing his lips move. 

" I say nothing to Him and He says nothing to 
me, but I look at Him, and He looks at me." 

How many times did the Cure of Ars quote 
in his catechisms this naive and sublime saying, by 
which the old peasant of the Dombes had tried to 
explain the intimacy of those secret communings, in 
which Jesus Christ deigned to reward the love of 
his servant. 

The village church often received another visitor, 
at least when he was residing in the district : this 
was the Vicomte d'Ars, the brother of Mile. d'Ars. 
He spent the greater part of the year in Paris ; but 
each of his journeys to Ars made a lasting im- 
pression, because on his departure he always left 
the church enriched by some magnificent donation, 
the poor families abundantly provided with warm 



46 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

garments for the winter, and the whole parish edified 
by his unostentatious piety. 

M. Vianney found a still more valuable helper in 
M. Mandy, the mayor of Ars. He was a simple 
peasant, not learned, but with rare good sense, an 
excellent administrator, who knew how to carry out 
many important works with the resources of his 
modest budget, and a man of great moral authority, 
who laboured, with all his might, to purge his com- 
mune of the curse of drunkenness. He early re- 
cognised the sanctity of his new fellow-citizen, and 
has left us a touching testimony to the veneration 
with which he inspired him. In fact he never 
put down any expenses which were incurred for 
the church, without giving his cure the title of 
Saint ; and thus a few months after his arrival in 
his parish, M. Vianney had already figured several 
times in the official registers as " le saint Cure 
d'Ars." 

However zealous might be the staff of helpers 
with whom he was surrounded, however active he 
was himself, M. Vianney expected everything from 
God. 

He had read in the Gospel that when the dis- 
ciples had not been able to cure one possessed of the 
devil, Jesus had said to them : " This kind cometh not 
forth but by prayer and fasting." He reminded one 
of his colleagues of this, when the latter was saddened 
by his want of success in his parish, and when he 
still claimed to have done everything he could. " You 
have done everything ? Are you quite sure ? Have 
you fasted ? Have you given alms ? Have you 



THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS 47 

prayed ? " M. Vianney, in speaking thus, divulged 
the secret of the marvellous power of his own 
apostolate. 

From the moment of his arrival at Ars, his pen- 
ances and his alms were prodigious. But he was so 
humble, he practised so faithfully the precept, not to 
let his left hand know what his right hand did, that 
no one here below will ever know all that this same 
right hand has given ; and for a long time his most 
faithful parishioners lived with no suspicion that he 
rivalled in austerity the hermits of the desert. 

Mile. d'Ars acted as his steward ; she supplied him 
with wine, meat, vegetables, wood and all necessaries. 
In her account books, kept with exemplary exactitude, 
she noted all that she sent to the Presbytery, and 
also the price, as there were certain things for which 
M. Vianney paid, others which she gave him, for at 
first he did not have more than five hundred francs 
as stipend, Ars being simply dependent on the Parish 
of Mis^rieux, and the inhabitants there were bound 
to support their cur6. Now, to judge by the books 
of Mile. Ars, one might suppose that M. Vianney was 
provided with all that was necessary for a modest and 
even comfortable existence. 

However, one day, in this house where nothing 
was thought to be wanting, his youngest sister, 
Marguerite, arrived unexpectedly, accompanied by 
Madame Bibost, of Ecully, the excellent woman who 
had looked after his linen and clothes while he was 
studying. It was the very year of his installation. 
At the sight of these uninvited guests M. Vianney 
appeared somewhat embarrassed. " My children," he 



48 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

said, " you will have a very bad dinner." The visitors 
entered the kitchen, and found, in a saucepan, some 
cold potatoes which were getting mouldy. M. 
Vianney took one, peeled and ate it. "They are 
still good," he said, but his sister had not the courage 
to touch them. She made some mdtefaims (a kind 
of pancake) with a little flour she discovered in a 
corner. There was nothing in the kitchen, and there 
was no wine in the cellar. M. Vianney had laid in a 
store of provisions like any one else, but they only 
entered his house to be immediately carried to the 
poor. 

For himself, he only kept what was just enough 
to prevent him from starving. He even gave 
that, if he had nothing else, for he took liter- 
ally the Evangelical Counsels : " Take no thought 
for what ye shall eat, your Father, which is in heaven, 
will provide." One evening, shortly after his installa- 
tion, M. Mandy having knocked at his door, he ap- 
peared, as pale as a ghost. " You are ill, Monsieur 
le Cur^." " Ah, my friend, you have saved my life, 
I have nothing to eat." M. Mandy hastened to fetch 
some bread. It was three days (I am telling the 
simple truth) since a poor man, who was starving, 
had carried off the remaining provisions from the 
Presbytery. 

M. Vianney simply lived on nothing. Catherine 
Lassagne, one of the witnesses of his life, has heard 
him often say when he was anxious about having to 
feed the young girls in his Providence: " How happy 
I was in those early days. I had no one else to pro- 
vide for, I was alone. When I wanted to dine, I did 



THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS 49 

not lose much time over it. Tiiree vidtefaims were 
enough. While I was cooking the second, I was 
eating the first ; while I was eating the second, I was 
cooking the third. I finished my repast by arranging 
the pan and the fire, and I used to drink a little 
water with it." 

One must not imagine by this that the Cur6 of 
Ars had such an appetising dinner as this every day. 
He did not take the trouble to prepare the mdtefaims, 
except when he found himself forced by weakness to 
take something more substantial. His meal— he only 
took one a day — was usually composed of potatoes 
cooked in water, which he ate cold six days out of 
seven, because he boiled all his provision for the 
week at one time. The last day there was often only 
mould in the saucepan. 

For dessert, he liked to take a crust of dry bread 
which had lain in the wallet of some beggar, and for 
which he had paid dearer than he would have done 
for a fresh loaf from the baker. He had borrowed 
this practice, which suited equally well his spirit of 
mortification and his charity, from St Frances of 
Rome ; and like her, when he ate this bread of the 
poor, he was as happy as if he had been invited to 
the table of Jesus Christ. 

Too charitable to impose the rule which he had 
adopted on others, and at the same time too averse 
to ostentation to wish that his austerities should 
become known, he gave up these habits when he re- 
ceived his brother priests, and especially his relations. 
He then had a good suitable meal prepared for them, 
carved the meat himself, poured out the wine, and 



50 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

encouraged them to eat and drink, eating of every- 
thing himself. And a striking thing happened : at 
the table of the Cure of Ars, it was he who ate as 
a duty, while his guests forgot to do so, because their 
host's conversation used to transport them to Para- 
dise. *' When we were at Ars," said one of his nieces, 
" it was like the day of our First Communion, no 
one was hungry." 

He stripped himself of his linen and clothing 
besides giving away his provisions. All his wardrobe 
rapidly disappeared, piece by piece. Claudine Renard 
tried to renew it, but it was waste of time. In vain 
she took the precaution of not giving him back his 
linen ; that she had to wash, except as he needed 
it ; M. Vianney, seeing he had nothing more in his 
cupboard, began giving away what he was wearing. 
One day he was stopped by a poor man who had no 
shoes and whose feet were bleeding ; he gave him 
his shoes and stockings and returned barefooted to 
the Presbytery. Another day having searched in 
vain in his pockets, which his charity had already 
emptied, he said to some one who had begged an alms, 
"Take this, my friend," and gave him his pocket- 
handkerchief, the only thing he had left. One even- 
ing as he was returning from the mission at Trevoux, 
in which he was taking part, he was wearing a good 
pair of velvet trousers, which his fellow-priests, seeing 
him so badly dressed, had forced him to accept. At 
the spot called Les Bruyeres, a man in rags ap- 
proached him, shivering with cold. "Wait a moment, 
my friend," said he, and he disappeared behind a hedge 
An instant later, the entire trousers, for one cannot 



THE REFORM OP THE PARISH OP ARS 51 

divide them as one can a mantle, had changed owners. 
When his friends at Trevoux made enquiries about 
their gift, the new St Martin answered : " I have lent 
them to a poor man whom I met at Les Bruyeres." 

" I have never forgotten my cloak anywhere," he 
said one day. In fact he never possessed such a 
garment, and he never had more than one cassock 
at a time, having taken literally the counsel that 
Jesus gave to his disciples, when he sent them into 
Judea: "You shall only have one coat." This cassock, 
which was his winter and summer garb, always 
lasted several years. 

His clerical brethren often made remarks on his 
appearance, fearing lest it might compromise the 
dignity of the sacerdotal office. They forgot that 
when St Vincent de Paul used to mount the stair- 
case of the Louvre, carrying a shabby felt hat under 
his arm, and clothed in his threadbare habit and thick 
peasant's boots, all hats were raised and every head 
inclined before him. 

Very soon those who censured the Cure of Ars 
were able to see for themselves, what emotion the 
sight of his well-known habit awakened wherever he 
passed. One day in 1822, to quote this anecdote 
among a hundred others, M. Vianney entered the 
Peiii Seminaire of Meximieux where he was going 
to see the Superior, M. Loras, his former fellow- 
student. It was during the recreation time. 
Scarcely had he set foot in the courtyard, relates 
a witness in the process of beatification, than all 
the games ceased and a religious silence pre- 
vailed. " What is it ? " asked some one. " It is 



52 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

Monsieur le Cure d'Ars," was the answer, and that 
explained everything. 

He soon had no bed, or, at least, he had only the 
semblance of one. Detesting above all the affecta- 
tion of virtue, he loved to quote the example of St 
Charles Borromee who, far from publishing his 
austerities, appeared to live as a man of his rank ; 
he had indeed a fine Cardinal's bed which every one 
could see, but by the side of it was another, made 
of faggots, and it was this latter that he used. M. 
Vianney did exactly as St Charles had done. But 
as he was not a cardinal, it was the same bed which 
gave his visitors the illusion that he had a com- 
fortable couch, which served him as an instru- 
ment of penitence. When this bed was covered 
with sheets, it did not attract any notice. But the 
mattress having migrated to some sick person, and 
the bolster having speedily followed, there was 
nothing under the sheets to rest his head on but a 
little straw, and a very thin mattress laid on faggots 
for his body. This is what Marguerite Vianney 
and Madame Bibost discovered in the course of 
their visit. Obliged to leave them alone for a 
moment, M. Vianney had told them that his room 
was done, and that they need not go into it. How- 
ever, they went up, and suspecting the mortifications 
which he practised, they opened the bed, but quickly 
remade it, fearing to vex the holy man. 

As M. Vianney did his room himself, and no one 
but he slept at the Presbytery, his parishioners 
never knew anything of his austerities except 
through indiscreet persons. But when their curiosity 



THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS 53 

was aroused, in order to satisfy it they exercised a 
real espionage, and got to know that their cur6 
scourged himself like a Trappist, often slept on the 
floor of his barn with a stone for his pillow, and 
imposed terrible fasts on himself. 

Later on, his assistant-priest, when questioning 
him as to this period of his life, spread a snare for 
him, into which he naively fell. " Monsieur le Cur^, 
they say that formerly you could easily remain for 
a week without food." '* Oh no, my friend, they 
have exaggerated, the most I have done is to go for 
a week with three meals only." 

He offered all these mortifications to God for the 
salvation of his parishioners, multiplying and increas- 
ing them when he had some great favour to ask, for 
instance when Easter approached, when he had 
discovered an abuse to reform, when he wished to 
snatch hardened sinners from their bad habits, or 
after their conversion to expiate their faults and 
obtain their perseverance. 

To pi-ayer, he added fasting, according to the 
divine precept. At two o'clock, he had risen and 
recited the office of the night, and he afterwards 
began praying. At four o'clock he was in church in 
adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. He did 
not leave it till noon, having spent the morning in 
catechising and saying his Mass, in making his pre- 
paration and afterwards his thanksgiving. And 
throughout the day there was a series of pious 
practices, such as a *' Hail Mary " at each fresh 
hour. He had vowed to do this, and to meditate, 
while reading the different parts of his office, on the 



54 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR^ D'ARS 

Passion of Jesus Christ, and then there were con- 
tinual invocations to God, to whom everything led 
him back, the grain they v^'ere sowing, the bird 
singing, the bush flowering. What could Heaven 
deny to such ardent love ? 

" Oh how many graces our Lord granted me at 
that time," he one day confessed, when speaking of 
the five or six first years of his apostolate at Ars. 
" I obtained everything I wanted from Him." Now 
as he wished for nothing less than to bring back all 
his flock to the fold, he did not cease to importune 
our Saviour until there was not one wandering sheep 
left in Ars. 

Even then he did not rest, but seeing that God 
was now loved in this little corner of the earth, his 
zeal felt straitened. 

So he placed himself at the service of the neigh- 
bouring priests, and he it was, who took temporary 
duty, replaced the absent and assisted those who 
were ill. 

Missions offered another field for his activity. 
And there was one in which the empire he exercised 
over souls was so strikingly manifested, that a 
change passed over his life. It was the mission 
given at Tr^voux, in the early part of 1823, by the 
priests of the Chartreux Monastery. M. Bailey, who 
conducted it, had known M. Vianney at the Seminary, 
and asked his help for the confessions. What attrac- 
tion did these persons find who were the first to kneel 
at the feet of this humble country Cure ? Perhaps 
they did not even know themselves. But they arose 
so consoled that they advised all their friends to go 



THE REFORM OF THE PARISH OF ARS 55 

to this source of life. Soon it was M. Vianney who 
confessed nearly everybody, especially those who 
were the most enlightened. The mission lasted 
five weeks, and during these five weeks, nothing was 
talked of at Trevoux but the extraordinary gift of 
insight, which the Cure d'Ars had received for the 
direction of consciences. 

The day before the close of the mission, he 
remained in the Confessional for more than twenty 
hours. At two o'clock in the morning his host, Mr 
Morel, the Chief of the Institution at Trevoux, and 
formerly his fellow-student at Verrieres, came to 
take him away by force, and carried him quite 
exhausted to his bed ; two hours later the con- 
fessor was again at his post. 

From that time forth the Cure of Ars was the 
Apostle of the Dombes and the District of the Bas 
Beaujolais. Every cure wanted to engage this 
workman who, as one of them said, did so much 
work and ate so little. At Montmerle, at St Trivier, 
at Savigneux, at Chaneins, at St-Bernard, he made 
them celebrate the jubilee of 1826. It is related 
that in this last parish, the farm- servants, whom 
their masters had not allowed to go on account of 
the press of work, offered to give up part of their 
wages rather than miss a single sermon of the 
missionary. 

And such was the success of this Apostolate that 
troubled souls did not wait for the Apostle to go to 
them, but came themselves to seek him. His first 
pilgrims showed the way to others, soon the roads 
leading to Ars were thronged with people, more 



56 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

than 20,000 persons ^ went there every year, after the 
rumour had spread of all the marvellous things 
which had happened there. 

' Twenty thousand is the number given by the sub-prefect of 
Tr^voux in the report in which he asks for the Cross of the Legion 
of Honour for the Cure of Ars (June 28, 1855). 



CHAPTER IV 

THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS AND THE SAINT's HEAVY 
TRIALS 

pERHAPS no period was more interesting in the 
life of the Cure of Ars than the ten years in 
which — first from the neighbouring parishes, then 
from all the Lyonese district, and finally from the 
whole of France and even from abroad — people of 
every condition used to come to him to confess their 
sins and beg for his advice. For him this was a time 
of great favours and, as these always demand their 
price, it was also one of special trial ; it was then 
that he became a saint in the true acceptation of 
the word. But of no other period do we possess 
such scanty details, so that we can only sum up, at 
the same time verifying their facts, what his first 
historians have written. 

Many of the events, which during these ten years 
give such marvellous significance to his life, relate 
to the creation and development of an Orphanage 
called the Providence, which he founded at Ars. 

For him this work was the realisation of a two- 
fold wish. 

His own unsatisfactory studies had caused him so 
much suffering that he was keenly alive to the 
problem of popular education. Soon after his 



58 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

arrival at Ars (this interesting and little known fact 
we learn from the journal of Mile. d'Ars) he 
liberally distributed books, thinking that he could 
give nothing better than a little knowledge. But 
this kind of alms was useless in most houses; for 
at Ars, as in other country districts at that time, 
the people were quite ignorant, and so it became 
one of M. Vianney's dreams to open free schools 
in his parish. 

Again while journeying through the Dombes, when 
replacing those of his fellow-priests who were ill, he 
formed another wish. In the farms of this great 
insalubrious plain, where the tillers of the soil are 
soon worn out, he met many children who had 
neither father nor mother, and found others 
abandoned by their parents. This state of things 
troubled him greatly, and when he remembered that 
Saint Vincent de Paul had, like him, been a country 
cure in this very district, he no doubt prayed to 
this good patron of orphans, to inspire him with the 
means of rescuing some of these poor children from 
misery, especially the girls, they being the most 
exposed. 

He never crossed the village square without cast- 
ing envious eyes on a house which, by its cleanly 
appearance, seemed to him very suitable for a girls' 
school and an orphanage. 

In spite of his great wish to purchase it, he would 
make no rash decision. He reflected over it for 
some time and prayed much. But when it seemed 
to him that his plan was feasible, he bought the 
house he had so much coveted. It is a mistake to say. 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 59 

as some have done, that on this occasion he sold 
the property which he possessed at Dardilly : for he 
never possessed any property whatsoever, having 
received as his share of the paternal inheritance an 
annuity of three hundred francs, which was regularly 
paid to him until his death. It is possible, that in 
order to acquire the house for the Providence, (as 
he named it,) he may have mortgaged his pension for 
some years in advance. 

Now that a dwelling had been found, persons were 
needed to direct it. M. Vianney came to a decision 
which appeared very strange to many of his 
colleagues. But, as he at times received intuitions 
concerning the future, perhaps it was intended that 
he should show to the cures, who should live half a 
century later, what they could do when deprived of 
their usual helpers. Instead then of asking help 
from a Religious Order, he turned to his lay 
parishioners.^ Among them he chose two young 
girls, Benoite Lardet and Catherine Lassagne, who 
were distinguished for their virtues, and, by what 
was also essential in his eyes, their good common 
sense. 

He sent them for a year to the Sisters at Fareins 
so that they might get some insight into the manage- 
ment of a school, then recalling them to Ars, he 

* Some widow ladies having founded at Lyons a hospital for 
Incurables, under the name of the Oeuvre des Dames du Calvaire, 
— one of the finest works originated by Lyonese charity — inquired 
of the Cur6 d'Ars if they should adopt a religious habit. He 
advised them, not only to remain lay helpers, but, because they 
were women of the world, to ^'■faire un peu de toilette." 



60 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

confided to them the direction of his Orphanage, 
without however binding them by any vows. 

They fully justified his confidence. As he ex- 
pressed it, Benoite was the head and Catherine the 
heart. 

A companion was soon given to the two 
Directresses, Jeanne Marie Chaney, who was 
especially charged with the rough work of the house- 
hold. The beginnings were very modest. First of 
all a free school was opened for the little girls. 
Afterwards the children of the neighbouring parishes 
were received as far as there was room for them, on 
condition that they should be boarded at their 
expense. As it was specially intended for poor 
orphans, two or three were received as soon as 
possible. The number gradually increased with the 
resources. Soon there was not enough room, and it 
was necessary to build, and M. Vianney, who had 
done the work of a carpenter in restoring the stalls 
of his church, wished to work with his own hands in 
enlarging the Orphanage. He made the mortar, and 
gave his aid in sawing, and in carrying the stones. 

As soon as the house was finished it was filled, 
and for nearly a quarter of a century it remained 
full. The number of boarders was not limited. All 
who presented themselves were admitted, but young 
girls from fifteen to eighteen, who had until then 
vegetated in ignorance and misery, were the most 
welcome. 

Many younger ones were also received, and never 
sent away until after they had made their First 
Communion. 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 61 

This Providence of Ars was a house conducted on 
quite an original plan. The same room served as 
refectory, school-room and work-room. The garden 
in which they took their recreation was planted with 
cabbages for the soup. There was no uniform ; 
the children had the clothes they were wearing on 
their entrance, or that were sent them by charitable 
persons. Nor was there any uniformity in their 
training, each one received the instruction appro- 
priate to her gifts. Most of the orphans only learnt 
to read, write, count, sew, knit, and to wash and 
mend linen. This was all in fact which was neces- 
saiy for them in order to make good farm servants, 
which was their usual lot when they left the Home, 
towards their twentieth year. 

Sometimes they were younger when they first went 
to service, but if so, they went only for the summer 
months. In the winter they returned to the Provid- 
ence, where they found rest for body and mind. 
Later on many of them married, while others became 
nuns. In both cases it was M. Vianney who acted a 
father's part, and it was he who gave them their 
trousseau, paid their expenses, made all the arrange- 
ments ; it was he who advised and encouraged them ; 
it was to him they turned in all their difficulties. 

The Providence was closely linked to his apostolate. 
If he had any special grace to ask, he at once set the 
orphans to pray, convinced that their youth and 
poverty were two titles which rendered them all- 
powerful with heaven. It was for them that he 
instituted those famous Catechizings, which were 
later on to begin or decide so many conversions 



62 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

Every day after the dinner of the Community was 
over, he entered the one room, which served also as 
refectory, and seating himself without ceremony on 
the edge of the table, while the children grouped 
themselves round him, he would talk to them for an 
hour. Before this audience which did not intimidate 
him, he dared to speak without any preparation, and 
also to say things just as they came to him ; thus he 
lost the artificial and laboured style which he had till 
then cultivated. He was himself and his speech, as 
we shall endeavour to show later on, was full of 
colour and unction. Little by little, strangers were 
allowed to join the audience. Their numbers always 
increasing, it was necessary to hold the meetings in 
the church. There the eloquence of the Catechist 
did not change, but was characterised by the same 
simplicity and naivete as in the atmosphere in which 
it had first been developed. And this was the way 
in which the orphans of the Providence rewarded M. 
Vianney in return for the benefits with which he 
loaded them ; he gave them bread for their bodies and 
food for their souls, while they contributed, little as 
he suspected it, to make him one of the most 
interesting orators of his time. 

The work flourished for twenty-five years, depend- 
ing chiefly on daily offerings from the charitable. In 
the beginning M. Vianney, with a little money which 
he had collected, bought some land for the benefit of 
the orphans, and at first saw to its cultivation, but 
as he had no time to look after it properly, he let it 
for a yearly rental to the Comte de Cibeins. At the 
same time this revenue was quite insufficient to 



THE PROVIDENCE OP ARS 63 

provide for sixty to eighty young country girls, 
blessed with good appetites, and M. Vianney was 
obliged to trust to Divine Providence — and Provid- 
ence never forgot all he had done to give a shelter to 
these homeless children. It showed itself inex- 
haustibly liberal to him, just as it had been to St 
Gaetan and St Vincent de Paul, as indeed it is to 
every saint who is inspired by heroic love for the poor ; 
it sent him, through a hundred mysterious channels, 
all that he needed for his work. 

On one occasion he had to pay for a great 
quantity of wheat, and as his creditor had already 
granted him a long delay, he could not ask him to 
extend it. He therefore took his stick, and set out 
for the country reciting his rosary as he went. At 
the end of the wood which bounds the parish of Ars, 
a woman stopped him : " Are you the Cure of Ars ? " 
" Yes, my good woman." " Here is some money 
which I was told to give you." " Is it for Masses ? " 
" No, only your prayers are asked for," so saying the 
woman went away without giving any name, and the 
wheat was paid. 

Another day M. Vianney said to the Abbe Tailhades, 
who had been helping him for several months, as we 
shall explain further on, " I am very worried, I owe 
more than 3000 francs. Ah ! one should be careful 
not to get into debt I "... " Allons, Monsieur le 
Cure," replied his listener, " do not fear ; the bon Dieu 
will settle all that." The next day when the 
catechising was over, the Cure d'Ars, after having 
exchanged a few words with the Abbe, said to him : 
" I must leave you, I am going to count my money." 



64 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

A moment afterwards he rejoined him feeling quite 
happy. " Well," said he, " we are now quite rich ; 
this morning I was rolling in money. The weight of 
it was so heavy that I could scarcely walk. My 
pockets were bulging out, I was obliged to hold them 
with both hands." When the Abbe Tailhades asked 
him where he had found so much money, he simply 
answered : " Oh ! I found it somewhere." Doubtless 
his benefactors had asked him not to give their 
names. Perhaps even he did not know them, for 
often truly Christian hands poured their alms into 
his ; they did not wish to be known even to him, and, 
too modest himself not to love modesty in others, he 
never sought to discover who it was, when he was 
not spontaneously told the source of the generosity 
of which he was made the instrument. 

Thus at each moment Providence sent him by dis- 
creet messengers the money which he needed. So 
in spite of his humility, when one reminded him of all 
these benefits, he could not help saying : " Yes, we 
are really the spoilt children of the bon Dieu." 

But did not God bestow on him still more marked 
signs of His affection ? Did He not do for him what He 
does in general for the great heroes of charity ? In 
order to show that the work undertaken was after 
His own heart, was He not willing sometimes to come 
to His aid while dispensing with all human agency ? 
This is beyond doubt. 

Among the facts quoted, there is one which was 
much talked of. The Cur^ d'Ars, who never spoke of 
any other miraculous intervention in his favour, has, 
on the contrary, several times related the above, be- 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 65 

cause in the depths of his humility, he saw in it, not 
a reward for his charity, but rather a punishment for 
his want of faith. This, according to his own recital, 
is what happened. 

There was no more bread, neither was there any 
corn or money. M. Vianney vainly solicited help 
from those persons who usually came to his aid 
in his difficulties. They were at the end of their 
resources, or else their generosity was exhausted. 
He believed himself forsaken by God, and felt more 
unhappy than he had ever been in his life before, ex- 
cept once, and that was when, after having begun 
his studies, he had despaired of ever finishing them. 
In his grief he remembered that in that moment of 
distress he had had recourse, and with success, to 
the protection of St Francis Regis. So he took the 
relics of the Saint, went up into his granary, and hid 
the reliquary in the handful of grain which remained. 

The next day the Directresses of the " Provid- 
ence " came to tell him they had nothing left to eat. 
"We must send our poor children away then," he 
answered, weeping ; then he went slowly up to his 
granary, accompanied by Jeanne- Marie-Chaney, and 
anxiously opened the door. The granary was full ! 

If one of the signs by which one may recognise 
the sanctity of a man is the humility of his attitude 
before any special mark of the Divine favour, the 
Cure d'Ars plainly showed at this moment that he 
was really a saint. Overjoyed as he was that he 
would now have enough to provide for his family, he 
yet hung down his head like a naughty child. He 
went himself to carry the news to the orphans, and 



66 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

far from boasting of it, as of a fact which showed 
how highly God esteemed his virtues, his recital 
resembled a confession. " I mistrusted the ' bon 
Dieu,' my dear little ones," he said to them. " I was 
going to send you away, and He gave me a good 
lesson, so I have been well punished." We can 
easily imagine the saint was the only one to think 
that he had received such a reproof. 

The whole parish went up to see the corn, and 
the event caused an enormous sensation in the 
neighbourhood. 

Some years after Monseigneur Devie, the Bishop 
of Belley, being at Ars, asked to visit the presbytery. 
He entered the granary without any ceremony, and 
putting his hand casually against the wall said in a 
most nat« ral tone : " Did the corn come up as far as 
this ? " — ' No, Monseigneur," answered M. Vianney, 
who did not understand the object of the question. 
•' It was up to there," pointing much higher. The 
Bishop descended without making any observation ; 
he regarded the Cure d'Ars as a saint and feared to 
offend his humility. He had simply wished to have 
from his own lips the avowal of the extraordinary 
fact, of which so many persons had told him. 

Great graces in the life of a saint do not come 
without great trials, which accompany or more 
frequently precede them, and certainly Providence 
dealt out suffering to M. Vianney with no niggard 
hand. For nearly ten years he was criticised, 
insulted, suspected, calumniated and threatened 
with the utmost violence. In fact everything with- 
in the range of possibility was done to make him 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 67 

weary of his saintly habits, shackle his apostolate, 
and ruin his good works. 

The first attacks came from his own brethren. 
Whilst he had merely preached missions in their 
churches, or acted as their substitute in times of 
illness, they had never been able to find strong 
enough terms in praise of his zeal. But when they 
saw their parishioners flocking to him in crowds, 
then that same zeal appeared to them most in- 
judicious, and they began to murmur. 

What indeed ! Was he, an ignorant priest, about 
to contend for the direction of the souls which had 
been confided to them ? Did not everyone know 
that he had had the greatest difficulty in the 
world to master a little Latin, and that he had 
barely escaped being sent away from the Grand 
Semlnaire ? Besides, did not their dealings with 
certain amongst the frequenters of Ars amply suffice 
to confirm their apprehensions ? 

They were no longer docile ; and, in opposition 
to the counsels of their usual confessor, they obstin- 
ately invoked the opinion of the Cure d'Ars. And 
then, what an extraordinary existence was his! 
In what period did he imagine he was living? 
Did he not see that, in this cynical age of mockers, 
the excess of his austerities would not only cause 
the shrugging of shoulders, but would compromise 
the reputation of the clergy! And then, what 
was one to think of his orphanage, where nothing 
happened as it did elsewhere, but everything was 
left to Providence, with a temerity bordering on 
folly ! 



68 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

This is what was currently said in the presbyteries 
of la Bresse, and jealousy was not always the sole 
inspirer of these comments. 

The memory of M. Vianney's scholastic failures — 
still fresh in the minds of his fellow students — the 
contempt with which he invariably spoke of himself, 
and the silence he kept about the success of his 
apostolate, were all factors contributing to his 
prejudice. But a greater one than all these was 
the injudicious enthusiasm, with which persons of 
an exuberant imagination extolled the virtues of the 
new saint. 

Many of his detractors disparaged him in perfect 
good faith, and with all the more ardour because 
they believed that, in so doing, they were rendering 
a signal service to heaven. 

Nor were they content with words only; that 
which his fellow priests had said at first, half- 
jestingly among themselves, was very soon repeated 
as sober fact to the faithful, and cures forbade their 
parishioners to go to confession at Ars, threatening 
to refuse them absolution if they did so ; also many 
of them pointed out, in their sermons, the dangers 
of an unenlightened direction. 

" Those were the days," said M. Vianney later on, 
when speaking of those years of persecution, " in 
which in their pulpits, and everywhere else, they left 
the Gospel on one side, and took the poor Cure d'Ars 
for their text." 

As their preaching did not produce the desired 
effect, they resolved to stop the ever increasing 
stream of pilgrims by appealing to diocesan authority. 



THE PROVIDENCE OP ARS 69 

From divers quarters the Bishop of Belley ^ received 
very malevolent reports of the Cure d'Ars. Several 
of the influential cures even deemed it a duty to 
league together, and send him a collective letter, de- 
nouncing the injudicious zeal of one of his priests, 
whose incapacity was exposing the Faith to grave 
perils. 

Meanwhile M. Vianney was not unaware of what 
was being said and plotted against him. Some 
brother priest, thinking to do him a kindness, came 
in person to tell him ; others merely wrote about it. 
When a united attempt was made to induce the 
bishop to remove him from his cure, the fact was 
at once communicated to him, in an official letter of 
inconceivable harshness. 

He was not at all surprised to be judged so 
severely, for the worst that any one could possibly 
say of him could not equal the evil he thought of 
himself; and he had not the slightest doubt that 
the threatened disgrace was close at hand. He 
even expected still more rigorous treatment, " to be 
interdicted by his bishop, to be hunted from his 
cure by his parishioners armed with sticks." " It 
seemed to me," he said later on, " that every one 
ought to have made sport of me for having dared to 
live so long in a parish, where I was an obstacle to 
good." 

But, though he thought thus, his tender and loving 
heart suff'ered cruelly from so mortifying a trial, 

' The See of Belley, suppressed by the Concordat, had been 
restored in 1823, and since that date, the Cure d'Ars had ceased 
to belong to the Diocese of Lyons. 



70 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

coming as it did from his own brethren. He ac- 
cepted it, however, with perfect resignation, happy 
that the disdain of his peers would deHver him from 
the fear he had lest he might feel exalted when 
crowds bowed down to receive his benediction ; and 
happier still, that he was able to say to himself, 
" The cross is a gift of God to His friends." ^ 

Long afterwards, when he spoke of crosses in his 
catechisings, it was understood that his thoughts went 
back to those sad years in his life. Sometimes he 
even made direct allusions to them. " We must 
ask to love crosses," he said one day, " then they 
will become sweet. This was my experience for 
four or five years (the trial was especially painful 
for four or five years, but did not last less than 
ten). I was slandered, contradicted, criticised 
without mercy. Oh I I had crosses — almost more 
than I could bear. Then I began to pray for the 
love of crosses, and was happy. I said to myself, 
' there is really no happiness but in that.' One 
must never consider the quarter whence crosses 
come to us. They come from God. It is always 
God who gives us this means of proving our love 
to Him."i 

The Cur6 d'Ars did not exaggerate when he said 
that he had almost more crosses than he could bear, 
for the world soon joined his brethren in persecuting 
him ; and, at that time, he was exposed not only to 
the prejudices of jealousy, but to the slanders of a 
hatred that baffles explanation. His first accusers 
had scoffed at his ignorance, the new ones did not 
^ Esprit du Curi d'Ars, a Catechism on Suffering. 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 71 

hesitate to question his morality. He received 
anonymous letters reproaching him in odious terms 
for all kinds of infamous actions. In the morning 
when he opened the door of his presbytery, he found 
libels posted upon it, which accused him of having 
spent the night in debauch, whereas the greater part 
of it had been devoted to prayer ; and which shame- 
lessly attributed to a bad life, the deep lines with 
which penitence had furrowed his brow. 

These shameless tormentors found grace in his 
eyes ; he pardoned and excused them. He was quite 
aware that they were slandering him, and grieved 
that they should sin against God by their untruths ; 
but he did not think them to be altogether wicked : 
in his opinion, although they did not adhere to the 
strict truth, still they were not wrong in asserting 
him to be worthless. He rejoiced in all that God 
permitted them to say against him, " seeing in the 
condemnation of the world the blessing promised by 
heaven." The contempt with which he was over- 
whelmed served him as a safeguard against the 
temptation of taking delight in the compliments of 
others ; and he found consolation in the thought 
that his bishop, on seeing him " trodden under foot 
like dirt " — to use his own expression — would have 
no compunction in treating him as he deserved, i.e. 
in ejecting him from his cure. 

But the most admirable feature in his conduct 
was, that these unjust attacks did not slacken his 
zeal even for an instant ; nor did any of his labours 
ever suffer from the anguish with which he was 
tortured. He preached, confessed, gave counsel 



72 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

with as much diligence as in the past, and, on seeing 
him so scrupulously fulfilling the duties of his office, 
nobody could have suspected he was constantly 
accusing himself in his heart of being unworthy to 
fulfil them. To one who asked him, later on, how 
he had been able, during this long continued storm, 
to preserve the tranquillity of soul necessary to the 
discharge of his duties, he replied, " One serves God 
better by doing things in which one takes neither 
pleasure nor delight. It is true I hoped every day 
that they would come and turn me out, but, in the 
meantime, I acted as if I should never have to go 
away at all." 

This serenity appears still more admirable when 
one knows that the persecutions of men did not 
exempt him from infernal obsession.^ 

Let us at once apprise those, who may be tempted 
to doubt and smile on reading the following pages, 
that they will not be the first to do so ; nor will they 
think or say anything that our hero's contemporaries 

^ It has been remarked, that if all the saints have a share of 
suffering allotted to them as a means of purification and perfec- 
tion, the shares are, at least, very appropriately distributed ; to 
apostles, like St Francis Regis, who live amongst men to convert 
them, persecutions from men ; to hermits, like St Anthony, who 
live in solitude for the advancement of their own souls, diabolical 
persecutions. These latter were not spared the Cure d'Ars, 
although he was in reality an apostle of men. The reason of this 
cannot be doubted, his apostolate was exercised under conditions 
not incompatible with certain habits in the life of a recluse : 
an apostle by day, was not this heroic cure a veritable hermit at 
night? Moreover, his diabolical persecutions were not of the 
same character as those of the great hermits ; they tended chiefly 
to thwart his apostolate. 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 73 

did not think or say, in his life-time, and the clergy 
with more animus than the rest. For the rumour 
that the Cure d'Ars was visited by demons, was no 
sooner noised abroad, than it was greeted by an 
outburst of laughter in all the neighbouring pres- 
byteries. It was not long before his good brethren 
came to demonstrate to him, that he was but a 
dreamer, with a diseased imagination and a dis- 
ordered brain ; and that the den, from which his 
demons issued, was none other than the pot in 
which he left his potatoes to grow mouldy. " My 
dear cure," they said to him, " live like everybody 
else ; feed better, your head will get all right again, 
and the devils will leave you in peace." 

But the persecutions lasted thirty-five years. 

M. Vianney's own confidences have made it an 
easy task for his biographers to describe the 
torments of this long martyrdom : they have only 
to repeat what he has himself recounted a thousand 
times. There was, in fact, no other subject on 
which the Cure d'Ars spoke so freely, for he was 
as willing to avow what he supposed would humiliate 
him, as he was to be silent on all that could bring 
him esteem. What then were the joys of his inner 
life ? We scarcely know : for he never made any 
but obscure and rare allusions to them, although — 
seeing nothing that could in any way redound to 
his honour — he answered, without hesitation, all 
questions put to him upon the subject of the 
diabolical persecutions. " The devil," remarked one 
of his assistants one day to him, " leaves us quiet 
enough." " That is because you are so good I " 



74 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

replied M. Vianney. This remark explains his 
avowals. 

It is from his own accounts then we learn how 
this great trial began, and the tortures it caused 
him to suffer. 

He had many and strong internal temptations to 
despair. He continually pictured to himself his past 
faults, and his present imperfections ; he saw heaven 
shut against him, and hell open ; and his apostolate 
appeared quite barren. These thoughts were all the 
more painful to him, because his faith never wavered 
for an instant during the whole of his life, and he 
never had even the shadow of a doubt about the 
existence of that Paradise to which, he imagined, he 
could never attain. They were all the more danger- 
ous because they tended to paralyse his zeal, which, 
without his understanding how, was already doing 
immense good. But, as these temptations failed to 
disgust him with his duties, the demon made use of 
other means. 

Far from being that weak-minded person, which 
his brethren had conjured up, the Cure d'Ars was 
naturally so little inclined to credulity that, at first, 
he had no idea he was beset by devils : and not 
until the failure of every rational explanation, to 
account for the strange noises that disturbed his 
nights, did he at all suspect the nature of their 
origin. 

One evening he heard a violent knocking at his 
door. He opened his window and asked, *' Who is 
there ? " Nobody replied. The noise being repeated, 
this time at the door of his staircase, he again said, 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 75 

" Who is there ? " and, as before, received no reply. 
Now as the Vicomte d'Ars had lately given him 
some magnificent ornaments for his church, which 
he kept for safety in his presbytery, he imagined the 
noises must be caused by thieves attempting to 
break in to steal them. He therefore thought it 
best to take precautions, and asked some brave men 
to mount guard. They came several nights in succes- 
sion, heard the noises, but discovered nothing. They 
watched also in the belfry, but without any success : 
a great hubbub was heard, but nothing was seen. 
The watchers were much frightened, and so also 
was the Cur^ d'Ars himself. However, one wintry 
night, having again heard a great banging at his 
door, he jumped out of bed in hot haste, and ran 
down into the yard convinced, that if these disturbers 
of his peace were men, they must, this time, leave 
footprints in the freshly fallen snow, by which they 
could be tracked and caught. But he neither saw 
nor heard anyone, nor was there trace or mark of 
any footstep whatsoever in the snow ; from this time 
he no longer doubted his persecutor was the devil. 

If the special aim of these obsessions was to terrify 
him, they signally failed in their object. Our hero, 
it is true, was very much terrified when he thought 
he had to do with men : but it was a strange fact — 
thought quite consistent with his character — the 
moment he was convinced that the disturbers of his 
nights were demons, he was much less afraid. 

Besides — and of this there can be no doubt — the 
great end of his enemies was to render his apostolate 
less fruitful, by preventing his tired body and jaded 



76 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

brain from renewing their strength. In fact, all 
these persecutions were artfully contrived to render 
sleep impossible. The most frequent of the 
nocturnal noises was one of those monotonous 
sounds, calculated more than anything else, as all 
the world knows, to induce insomnia ; and, for fear 
lest he should become accustomed to them, the 
noises generally varied in character from night to 
night. Sometimes they sounded like a plank being 
sawn, or bored for screws; sometimes like nails 
being hammered in, one after the other. Or else 
it seemed to him that regiments were defiling 
before his door, that a flock of sheep were trampling 
about in the room overhead, that a horse was gallop- 
ing over his flagstones, that fingers were drumming 
on his table, his chimney-piece or his water jug, that 
a barrel was being hooped with iron close beside 
him, that all the carriages in Lyons were rolling over 
his floors, and that a clamorous assembly was dis- 
puting in an unknown tongue in his court-yard. 
This last mentioned obsession continued many con- 
secutive nights, and he compared the dialect of the 
demons, who held their parliament — as he called it 
— in his court-yard, to that of the Austrians, whom 
he had met on his journey to Grenoble, when he 
went to be ordained as priest. At other times his 
door would open with a bang, and a voice would 
roughly apostrophise him by his family name. Then 
he would have to endure a volley of scornful epithets, 
the one most in vogue being, " ninngeur de truffes,'' 
truffe being the name given to the potato by the 
peasants in the Province of Lyonnais. After this 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 77 

his furniture was rattled about, and his curtains were 
shaken with such violence that it was a continual 
marvel to him that nothing was broken or injured. 
Several times he was actually jerked out of 
bed. 

It is to be regretted that, whilst so naively 
describing the different phases of this terrible 
torture, — this deprivation of " nature's sweet 
restorer " at the very moment he most needed it — 
the Cure d'Ars gave no account whatever of the 
resignation with which he supported it. But, if he 
was lavish in his confidences about the assaults to 
which he was subjected, he was sparing in those 
concerning the doughty defence he opposed to them. 
However, from some avowals, which inadvertently 
escaped his humility, we know that his patience, 
surpassing heroism and verging on the sublime, was 
sometimes rewarded by a sudden cessation of the 
persecution. Thus, as he has himself related, one 
night when the demon was tormenting him more 
than usual, he cried out from the depths of his heart, 
" My God ! I will gladly sacrifice to Thee one hour 
of sleep for the conversion of sinners," and lo, there 
was a sudden and profound silence. One conjectures 
also that, like St Theresa, and many other saints 
subject to the same mortifications, he sometimes 
disarmed the •' Grappin" as he ironically called his 
persecutor, by defying him. Once, when he said, 
" I will go down yonder [meaning to his orphanage, 
the Providence] and tell them of thine intrigues, so 
that they may all laugh at thee," the persecutions 
instantly ceased. Sometimes, in order to tax his 



78 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

long-suffering patience beyond its utmost limits, the 
demon would vainly try to irritate or grieve him, by 
direct attacks on objects dear to his heart, for 
instance by defiling a holy picture that he loved, or 
some such impious act. But, in spite even of this, 
the holy cure still continued unmurmuringly to 
submit to the ordeal of being heavy with sleep, 
without being allowed to close his eyes. 

A coincidence, which he soon noticed, was a great 
consolation to him ; it was this : the persecutions 
recommenced or redoubled their violence whenever 
some great sinner was on his way to Ars. So it 
came to pass that he felt real joy when they began 
again, after an interval of respite, hailing them as a 
sign that his nights of suffering would soon be 
followed by a wonderful conversion ; and he was 
not mistaken. 

During the last years of his life, these persecutions 
became rarer and rarer, till, in the end, his nights 
were no more troubled. If he was tormented it was 
only during the hour of repose, which he was obliged 
to take after his mid-day meal. They did not 
entirely cease until six months before his death. 

The persecutions, to which he was subjected by 
men, ended much sooner. 

The very arm, with which his detractors hoped to 
strike him, was used in his defence. The Bishop of 
Belley, Mgr. Devie, had too much good sense and 
kindness of heart to sacrifice one of his priests, 
without having made the very strictest inquiries 
about his ministry^ and his private life. 

The Vicars General both went to Ars, questioned 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 79 

M. Vianney, saw him at work, and discovered 
nothing worthy of blame in him. He was, never- 
theless, asked to submit to the Council of the 
Bishopric, all the difficult cases that he might meet 
with in his Apostolate. He docilely complied with 
this request, and soon sent more than two hundred. 
Mgr. Devie, who examined them himself, acknow- 
ledged that except in two individual cases — in which 
his own judgment would have differed slightly — 
the cure's decisions had been irreproachable. After 
that, he no longer permitted them to treat as 
incapable, a confessor, who had solved such a great 
number of difficult problems with such unerring 
judgment. The next time they did so in his 
presence, he warmly protested, saying, '• I do not 
know whether M. le Cure d'Ars is learned, but I 
know that he is enlightened." 

Reassured as to the competency of the poor priest, 
against whom they had tried to prejudice him, Mgr. 
Devie was still more quickly satisfied as regards his 
virtue. A few interviews sufficed to edify him. He 
found a saint, where they had told him he would 
find an object of ridicule. And ever afterwards he 
openly defended that piety and those mortifications, 
which he so often heard derided. " Sirs," he said 
one day at a meeting, in a tone which put an end to 
joking, " I wish you a little of that folly you are 
scoffing at, it would not hurt your wisdom." Another 
day he spoke again of the Cure d'Ars with the most 
profound respect, and ended very gravely as if he 
wished his words to be repeated, " Yes, sirs, he is a 
saint ! A saint whom we ought to admire and take 



80 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

as a model." This remark, as the bishop no doubt 
intended, went tlie round of the diocese, and stopped 
all tongues, at least in public. 

But it was more the ascendency of M. Vianney's 
virtue, than the protection of his bishop, which 
gradually influenced people in his favour. The Abbe 
Monnin recounts a very significant anecdote. The 
Cure d'Ars had received a letter from a brother 
priest, which began thus : " M. le Cure, when one 
knows as little theology as you, one ought never to 
enter a confessional." The rest was in the same 
strain. M. Vianney, who scarcely ever found time 
to answer the innumerable letters addressed to him, 
answered this one at once. " Oh ! what reason 
have I to love you, my dear and venerated brother ; 
you are the only one who really knows me ! Since 
you are so kind and charitable as to deign to take 
interest in my poor soul, do help me to obtain what 
I have so long demanded, so that, being replaced in 
a post my ignorance makes me unworthy to occupy, 
I may withdraw to some retired spot, to mourn over 
ma pauvre vie.'' The sequel was worthy of this 
beginning. Confounded by so much humility, the 
author of this insolent letter went to beg his pardon. 

Thus almost all the priests, who blamed the Cure 
d'Ars were, one after the other, converted by him 
into admirers and friends. Moved by curiosity they 
had sought to enter into rather intimate relations 
with him, and thus their prejudices were dissipated. 
After a few visits to Ars, sometimes only one, they 
returned home softened by his goodness, and 
ashamed of their own blindness. In a few years. 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 81 

M. Vianney had no more enemies amongst the clergy. 
Little by little the world itself ceased, if not its 
jests at his expense, at least its slanders. 

There was yet one more trial for him, which must 
almost have broken his heart : the Providence was 
suppressed. 

His work continued to prosper, for the number of 
boarders was never less than sixty, and the country 
people came in crowds wanting them as servants. 
Its future appeared secure : for, seeing that the 
first Directresses were growing old, M. Vianney had 
chosen two young girls, the sisters Villiat, whom he 
was having instructed to succeed them. But his 
efforts were unable to save his dear Home from the 
attacks to which it was exposed on every side. The 
academic administration condemned it, as being 
neither a school nor an orphanage ; the clergy, 
because of its lay direction ; and several inhabitants 
of the village complained of having their daughters 
educated with beggars. What else did they not 
find to say? And what did they not criticise ? The 
clothes, the rule, the studies, the age at which the 
children were received. Before this chorus of 
complaints, echoed by the diocesan authority itself, 
M. Vianney thought he ought not to hold out. In 
the month of November 1847, in the presence of 
one of the Vicars General, he gave up the Orphans' 
Home, with the Chapel he was having built for them, 
to the Superior General of the Sisters of St Joseph 
de Bourg. The Orphanage was suppressed, and, 
in its place, a boarding school was established by 
the new Directresses. 



82 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

They still kept up the free school for the little 
girls of the parish — M. Vianney insisting upon this. 
Thus a part of his work was continued, and by no 
means the most insignificant. To complete it, he 
tried to secure the same advantage for the little 
boys. As his parishioners enthusiastically responded 
to his appeal, and he was generously aided by the 
Comte des Garets, Mayor of the Commune, and 
heir to M. and Mile. d'Ars, he was able to open a 
free school for boys, March 12th 1849. He had 
confided the direction of it to the Institute of the 
Brothers of the Holy Family at Belley. 

He was very soon on intimate terms with two of 
the masters of the new school. Frere Jerdme, 
whom M. Vianney called his comrade, and Fr^re 
Athanase, who often acted as his secretary, and who, 
after having been one of the witnesses in the process, 
had the joy of assisting at the solemn ceremony of 
the Beatification of his friend. Frere Jerome, who 
scarcely ever left him, was both his sacristan and 
his body-guard, protecting him with his strong arms 
from the pressure of the eager crowds. It was he 
who arrayed him each morning in his sacerdotal 
vestments, and it was he who clothed him for his 
burial.^ 

From the year 1849 primary instruction was 
therefore gratuitously given to all the children of 
Ars; and it was to the intelligent initiative of the 
unlearned cur6, whom the world had so derided, that 
this small village owed the inestimable advantage, 

^ The life of Fr^re Jerdme has been written by Mile. Marie des 
Garets d'Ars. Bourg, printing office, Villefranche. 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 83 

which made it fifty years in advance of most other 
French villages. 

The establishment of a free school for boys 
consoled M. Vianney somewhat for the loss of his 
orphans. But the suppression of the Orphanage 
was, none the less, a bitter grief to him ; in fact the 
bitterest in his life. 

Nothing could have affected him so deeply as the 
destruction of this work, which he had conceived 
and built up entirely himself, formed after his own 
image, endowed with his money and all the affections 
of his heart; and whose maintenance had made 
daily demands on his foresight and energy, for a 
quarter of a century. He submitted, however, to 
this cruel blow without a murmur, because he thought 
God had done well to strike him thus, if, by this 
means, the last vestiges of his self-love were de- 
stroyed. According to Catherine Lassagne's memo- 
randum about the event from which she herself 
also suffered, this was certainly the personal opinion 
of the saintly priest. " Blessed be God for all I " 
she wrote. " It is He who has thus willed it, without 
doubt, to detach His servant still more from the 
satisfaction he might have had even in doing good." ^ 

* It was not long before Catherine Lassagne, discerning that she 
was living near a saint, began to write a diary, relating all she 
saw, and all the confidences she received from him. After the 
suppression of the Providence, she served M. Vianney as much as 
he would allow any one to serve him, and continued her journal 
about the extraordinary life she had the privilege of witnessing. 
Her companion, Benoite Lardet, did not have the sorrow of 
seeing the suppression of the work she had helped to create. 



84 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

Thus did the Cure d'Ars recognise the will of God 
in a misfortune, in which no one else would have 
seen anything but the malevolence of man. Nor 
was he wrong; for the rest of his life shows that, 
if the sacrifice imposed on him was to serve for his 
sanctification, by completing his detachment from 
self, it was also required by the marvellous growth 
and development of the pilgrimage. Certainly the 
work they caused him to suppress had, for a long 
time, singularly contributed to the success of his 
apostolate. It was in the humble room of the 
Providence he had become that original orator, 
whose words had such irresistible charm. And then, 
what sad secrets he had learned about the human 
heart, whilst directing the young girls, who had 
many of them been led astray through a vagabond 
life I Lastly, although he perhaps said it especially 
that they might think his own prayers worth nothing, 
he had doubtless reason to affirm that a great 
number of sinners had owed, to the prayers of these 
children, the secret inspiration which had led them 
to Ars to confess their sins. 

But the role of the Cur^ d'Ars was not to direct 
a Charitable Institution, it was to convert and 
enlighten souls. And it was this role, which now 
sufficed to engross all the resources of his mind and 
heart, and every moment of his time. Already in 

After having governed her little family with great wisdom for 
some years, she died peacefully, transported with joy at the 
thought of going to see the good God, and not understanding 
how they could pity her for dying before she was old : "Would 
you like me then," she said to her sister, "to remain in this 
world ? I could never feel at home in it." 



THE PROVIDENCE OF ARS 85 

1835, Mgr. Devie had forbidden him henceforth to 
assist at the pastoral retreats: "What are you 
doing here ? " he asked. " Do you not know that souls 
are waiting for you yonder ? " Twelve years later 
there was no question of finding a few days in a 
year, the Cure d'Ars could not even get two hours a 
day — I do not mean for repose or recreation but — 
for any other work than confessing, advising, and 
catechising. Souls then resorted to him in such 
numbers, so eager for pardon and counsel, that he 
could no longer profitably engage in any other 
labour, without prejudice to the great work which 
was demanded of him. And soon his bishop, finding 
it necessary to come to his assistance, put the whole 
cohort of diocesan missionaries at his disposal. 



CHAPTER V 

ATTEMPTS AT FLIGHT. HIS FELLOW-LABOURERS 

|N order, later on, not to interrupt the description 
of the pilgrimage, several events, separated in 
reality by a series of years, have been placed together 
in the following chapter, and the reader w^ill see 
that they mutually explain each other. 

The first time M. Vianney thought of giving up 
his parochial work was — although the exact date is 
unknown — soon after his arrival in Ars. He went 
to Lyons, to the Capuchin Friars in the district of 
Brotteaux, and asked for admission. Pere Leonard, 
after having listened to the recital of his difficulties, 
used his authority in counselling him to remain a 
cure. " Your place is not amongst us," he said. 
" Only, since you love our Order, I will make you a 
member of the Third Order of St Francis," and 
he sent him back to his parish. M. Vianney therefore 
resumed his labours. But when to the burden of 
administering his little parish, was added that of 
directing the many souls that flocked to him from 
every quarter, he was afraid of a charge which, while 
seeming to him beyond his powers of mind and body, 
did not leave him sufficient time for prayer. He 
therefore persuaded himself that it would be better 
to retire to a hermitage. One evening, the date of 

86 



ATTEMPTS AT FLIGHT 87 

which he did not mention in his account of this 
attempt at flight — it was towards 1840 — he quitted 
his parish, and had got as far as the cross of the 
Combes on the way to Villefranche, when suddenly 
he stopped, and asked himself this question, " Am I 
really fulfilling the will of God at this moment ? Is 
not the conversion of one soul of more value than 
all the prayers I could make in solitude ? " There- 
upon he at once retraced his steps, and returned 
home, saying, " I will go on till I succumb." 

Three years later he very nearly did succumb. 
Then he regarded the illness, which had prostrated 
him, as an indication of Providence that he was 
right to give up his work, nay more, that it was per- 
haps even his duty to do so. 

This was at the beginning of May, in the year 
1843. Every evening during the month of May, it 
was his wont to give a short Instruction. On the 
third day, just as he had begun to speak, he was 
taken so ill, that he was obliged to quit the pulpit 
and go to bed. He was found to be suffering from 
a serious attack of pneumonia. During the next 
few days he was much worse ; the fever never left 
him, and syncope after syncope followed each other 
in quick succession. Three doctors met in consulta- 
tion, and pronounced that there was scarcely any 
hope. 

The whole parish was in tears. " You cannot 
form any idea," wrote Mme. la Comtesse des Garets, 
in a letter dated May the 10th, 1843, '• of the touching 
and pious spectacle, that has been before our eyes 
ever since the beginning of the saintly man's illness. 



88 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

One sees nothing but tears, hears nothing but prayers 
and sobs. The church, which seems desolate with- 
out him, is nevertheless continually filled with weep- 
ing crowds, imploring Heaven with heart and soul, by 
prayers, and acts of naive faith, and touching piety. 
. . . Candles are burning on every altar, rosaries 
are in every hand. During the first few days 
guardians were obliged to be placed at the presbytery 
door, to keep back the eager crowd that besieged it, 
entreating to see the venerable cure once more, and 
receive his last benediction. They could only calm 
this fervour, by giving notice each time the saint, 
rising in his bed of suff'ering, would give a general 
benediction." 

M. Vianney's Confessor was of opinion that the 
last Sacraments ought to be administered. As the 
doctors had recommended that he should be spared 
all strong emotion, the priests who were present at 
Ars, agreed that the bell should not be rung. The 
cure overheard their conversation, and turning to 
the person at his bedside said : " Go, and have the 
bells rung; ought not the parishioners to pray for 
their cnr6 ? " 

At the first deep tones of the bell the houses were 
deserted as if by magic, and the whole of the parish 
accompanied the Viaticum to the threshold of the 
presbytery. The priests. Count Prosper des Carets, 
his two sons, and a few other privileged persons, 
entered the sick-chamber, whilst the crowd knelt in 
the court-yard of the house, and in the village square, 
weeping and praying. 

When M. Vianney was asked if he believed all the 



ATTEMPTS AT FLIGHT 89 

truths of religion, he answered : " I have never 
doubted one " ; if he pardoned his enemies : " Thanks 
be to God, I have never wished evil to any one." 

As this ceremony is described in the letter of the 
Countess des Garets just quoted, bearing the date 
of the 10th of May, it no doubt took place upon that 
or the preceding day. 

The next morning the doctor approaching the sick 
man felt his pulse, and then, believing him to be 
past hearing, said aloud, " He has only a few 
minutes to live." 

The dying man distinctly heard the fiat that con- 
demned him ; and, being seized with awe and terror 
of the Judgment, earnestly prayed to God that He 
would grant him a reprieve, and delay the awful 
moment yet a little while. 

Four months later he himself described the 
anguish of this tragic moment to his family, when 
he was once more at Dardilly, in their midst. " Be 
sure, cousin," he said to Mme. FayoUe of Ecully, 
" when you assist the dying by fortifying and 
preparing them to appear before God, that you never 
cease your exhortations until they have actually de- 
parted. For this is what happened a little while ago 
to me, whom all gave up for dead, and abandoned, 
without so much as a word of comfort, because they 
were so certain that my last hour had come. I was 
in mortal dread of the Judgment of God when the 
doctor, after feeling my pulse, said, '• He has only a 
few minutes more to live." On hearing these words 
I thought, "In a few minutes thou wilt appear 
before God : and — with empty hands." Then, at 



90 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

the remembrance of the many persons, who had 
come from so far off to make their confessions, and 
who were imploring the Holy Virgin and St 
Philomena for me with all their hearts, I said 
within myself: " Lord ! if thou canst still use me do 
not yet take me from this world." And even as I 
spoke, I felt my vigour renewed ; and all my strength 
returned." 

At the exact moment that M. Vianney was so 
miraculously restored to life, a Mass was being 
said on his behalf at the altar of St Philomena. 
Pertinant, the parish schoolmaster — who never 
left the sick man night or day — was at his bed-side, 
and distinctly saw reflected on his face the emotions 
— to him inexplicable — of the drama which was being 
enacted in his soul. In his deposition, in the process 
of Beatification, he relates, " Before the priest had 
begun to offer the Holy Sacrifice, M. Vianney's 
attitude appeared to me to be that of a person in 
mortal terror. I noticed something extraordinary 
in him, great anxiety, unusual perturbation. I 
observed all his movements with redoubled attention, 
thinking the fatal hour had come, and that he was 
about to breathe his last. But as soon as the priest 
was at the Altar he suddenly became tranquil. It 
was as if he saw something pleasant and reassuring ; 
and the Mass was scarcely over when he exclaimed, 
' My friend ! a great change has just been wrought in 
me. ... I am cured.' " 

Prom this moment in fact the disease left him, 
and, little by little, his strength came back, so that 
on Friday, the 19th, he was able to be carried to 



ATTEMPTS AT PLIGHT 91 

church as convalescent. There he fell on his knees 
before the Tabernacle, no doubt consecrating to the 
Service of God the years of life that remained to 
him. 

Then he went and prayed for a long while, in the 
Chapel of his favourite little saint, to whose inter- 
cession, as he declared, his recovery was due. 

The first Mass that he celebrated was a great 
f^te, and the rejoicings were prolonged for eight 
days. Supported by Pertinant, he went to Church 
between midnight and one o'clock, since his forces 
were too impaired to permit of his fasting until 
morning. As he entered the Church the bell was 
rung, and the whole population of Ars hastened to 
assist at this nocturnal Mass. The season of the 
year seemed changed : it was no more the day after 
the Ascension, for all the inhabitants of Ars, with 
one accord, were transported to Christmas Eve. 
Their faces beamed with joy, and their eyes were 
never weary of gazing at their cure. 

But their happiness knew no bounds, when they 
again heard his voice, speaking, according to his own 
wish, first of all to his children of the Catechism. 

This joy, however, was short-lived ; for very soon 
a rumour spread that they were about to lose, whilst 
still living, him whose resurrection they had just 
celebrated ; and this rumour was only too well- 
founded. The Cur^ d'Ars had asked for life to 
prepare for death. It seemed to him that his illness 
had put an end to his apostolate ; and that heaven, 
in restoring his health, had left him at liberty to 
take refuge in solitude. 



92 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

He therefore naturally thought himself quite freed 
from his duties towards his parishioners, when Mgr. 
Devie sent him a fellow-helper. 

As early as the year 1839 the Abbe Tailhades, 
a priest of the diocese of Montpellier, had helped 
him occasionally for three or four months together. 
Having come on a pilgrimage, he had been so 
attracted by the charm of M. Vianney's saintliness, 
and the desire to be of service to him, that he had 
remained a short while. The aid that this chance 
collaborator had rendered, convinced the Cure 
d'Ars that a vicaire would be very useful to him ; 
and from that time he expressed a wish to have one. 

After his serious illness Mgr. Devie sent him the 
Abb^ Raymond, Cure de Savigneux, who was his 
sole auxiliary for ten years. M. Vianney had a great 
affection for this young priest, who had several times 
solicited the honour of being associated with the 
holy cure in his ministry. 

When the latter saw a young, active, zealous man 
arrive in Ars, who seemed his superior in every 
respect, he thought that the parish would be much 
benefited if he abandoned the direction of it to him, 
so he decided to bury himself in some remote and 
solitary place for the rest of " his poor life " as he 
called it. 

It was on the eve of the 12th of September that 
his project was put into execution. He had never 
spoken about it to anyone, except the night before, 
when he had mentioned it to the Directresses of the 
Providence, under the seal of secrecy. But some- 
how or other the secret leaked out, and the news 



ATTEMPTS AT FLIGHT 93 

spread like wild-fire. There was great excitement in 
the village ; men went to and fro making inquiries ; 
they concerted together, they mounted guard. 
Night came, but all was still; nothing unusual 
occurred. Suddenly, between two and three o'clock 
in the morning, a faint glimmer appeared in the 
darkness; and by its feeble light, M. le Cure was 
seen quietly stealing out of his back door. Some of 
the watchers tried to stop him, but he broke from 
them and ran away ; and when they gave chase, he 
redoubled his speed, and, diving into a bye-path, 
escaped from his pursuers, accompanied however by 
the faithful Pertinant. Almost breathless and with 
blistered feet, he reached his father's house at 
Dardilly, after seven hours of flight. There he 
remained concealed, and his poor parishioners were 
at a loss to know what had become of him. 

At once, inverting the roles in the parable, 
according to the happy expression of Madame des 
Carets, "the sheep went in search of their shep- 
herd." The Comte des Carets went to look for 
him at Dardilly ; not finding him, although he was 
there, he wrote him a most sorrowful letter. 
Catherine Lassagne let him know that the 
Providence was almost empty, but that there 
were still fifteen little ones left. The innkeeper of 
the village, fearing that he had displeased him, 
and thinking he had in some way contributed to his 
flight, sent him a touching message : " Monsieur, I 
beg of you not to forsake us. You know that I 
have always told you, and I repeat it at this moment 
with all my heart, that if there is anything in my 



94 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

house you do not approve of, I put myself entirely 
at your disposal." 

These letters made a strong impression on M. 
Vianney, and his resolution was already shaken. 
Very soon after he had proof that no hiding-place 
was sufficiently secure, and that wherever he fled 
the pilgrims would always manage to find him. 

Even as soon as the 15th, as less precautions were 
taken at Dardilly to conceal him, he was besieged 
by visitors. Those pilgrims who had tracked him 
to his hiding-place begged him to hear the end of 
their confessions, and he was obliged to ask the 
Archbishop for powers. Then, too, all his relations 
from Dardilly and Ecully hastened to visit him. 

On Sunday the 17th, crowds of people came from 
Lyons to see him, and, when it was known that he 
was still with his family, a part of the population of 
Ars went to Dardilly. 

Thus M. Vianney had only succeeded in changing 
the place of pilgrimage, and was it simply to secure 
such a result that he had taken flight ? This was 
the question which he asked himself when he was 
joined by the Abbe Raymond, who brought him a 
letter from the bishop. Mgr. Devie would not con- 
sent to the good cur6 leaving his diocese — he would 
have considered it too great a loss — but he offered 
to let him retire to Notre Dame de Beaumont, at 
the same time hoping that he would return to Ars. 

On the 17th of September M. Vianney left 
Dardilly at a very early hour, having taken great 
precautions that his departure should pass unper- 
ceived, for it was now the people of Dardilly who 



ATTEMPTS AT FLIGHT 95 

mounted guard over his person, hoping to inherit 
the treasure of which Ars was deprived. He re- 
joined M. Raymond who was waiting for him, and 
the two priests set out together towards Beaumont. 

On their way they passed before a church, which 
they entered and knelt down to recite a part of 
their office. When they rose from their knees, the 
church was full of worshippers. The cure had been 
recognised, and immediately a crowd had assembled. 
Although he tried to escape from the pilgrims, 
wherever he stopped the pilgrimage was formed 
anew. 

M. Raymond then told him that he could not send 
these good people away without having given them 
some spiritual sustenance, so M. Vianney resigned 
himself, and spoke to them with marvellous power. 

In the evening, the two travellers stopped not far 
from Beaumont. On the next day they said their 
Mass in the ancient sanctuary of Ndtre Dame. 
They were making their thanksgiving, when, all at 
once M. Vianney, leaning towards the Abbe Raymond, 
said to him in a resolute tone : " Let us return to 
Ars." 

They immediately went on to Savigneux. From 
there, while he was taking a moment's rest, M. 
Raymond despatched a messenger to the inhabitants 
of Ars, to say that their cure was about to return to 
them. In an instant everyone gathered in the 
market-place. At first they refused to believe the 
good news. They inquired as to its source, and 
insisted on seeing the person who had brought it. 
When they were at last convinced that it was indeed 



96 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

true, they hastily called together all those who 
were working in the fields. Then they ran to the 
chMeau to tell the mayor; they despatched scouts 
on the road to Savigneux, and gathered in crowds at 
the entrance of the village. At last, a great cry was 
raised, *' There he is," and soon a wonderful spectacle 
was seen. The people were all crying, laughing, 
kneeling down to kiss his hands, and touch the 
border of his cassock. He smiled, and blessed them, 
saying gently, " Was everything lost then ? Nay, 
now all is found." 

He embraced the Comte des Garets with trans- 
port, and in his person all the parishioners ; and, 
after making the tour of the square, leaning on the 
arm of the Abbe Raymond, he entered the church 
to the joyous peals of bells. 

The next day he resumed his chain, and the 
village of Ars, which for weeks had been a veritable 
desert, recovered its wonderful animation. 

Ten years later the same alarm was again felt, for 
M. Vianney, having received some new helpers, 
imagined that his parish no longer needed him. 

In 1863 two distinguished priests, the Abbe Mury 
and the Abbe Convert, had founded a little society of 
diocesan missionaries. This good work answered so 
well to the needs of the time, that its founders had 
immediately so much to do, and did it with such zeal, 
that after only seven years of apostolate, they both 
succumbed within an interval of six months. The 
direction of the Society was then confided to the 
Abbe Camelet, who changed its seat from Bourg to 
Pont-d'Ain. A close friendship soon sprang up 



ATTEMPTS AT FLIGHT 97 

between him and the Abb^ Vianney. Indeed, no wbrk 
could be more sympathetic to the Cure d'Ars than 
that of the diocesan missions ; they reminded him 
of those early times of his apostolic life, which had 
always remained so dear to his heart. He helped 
M. Camelet by his counsels, prayers and money. 
When he was told of a parish in which there was little 
faith, he quickly collected a sum of two thousand 
francs which he sent to the funds of the diocese, 
on condition that every ten years a mission should 
be given in this parish. By these means a decennial 
mission was assured to about a hundred parishes- 
Knowing that the missionary-priests looked upon 
him as a father, Mgr. Devie had thought of giving 
them to him as fellow-helpers. His successor, 
Mgr. Chalandon, put this project into execution. 

At first only one missionary-priest came to settle 
permanently near the Cure d'Ars; this was the 
Abbe Toccanier, but, as soon as they were needed, 
others hastened to rejoin him. All the members 
of the society thus resided more or less at Ars. 
Among them must be mentioned the Abb6 Monnin, 
who afterwards wrote the life of M. Vianney. 

The harmony between the Cure d'Ars and the 
missionaries was always so perfect that after his 
death they were made the guardians of his tomb ; 
and it was the Abbe Camelet, the Superior of the 
Society, who was the first, after M. Vianney, to bear 
the title of Cure d'Ars. 

The Abbe Toccanier, who was one of the prin- 
cipal witnesses in the process of Beatification, soon 
inspired the holy cure with unlimited confidence. 



98 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

and received from him most touching marks of 
sympathy. 

One day, when he returned to Ars after a long 
absence, M. Vianney welcomed him with outstretched 
arms : " Ah ! mon cher ami, there you are ! How 
glad I am ! I have often thought how unhappy the 
damned must be to be separated from God, since 
one suffers so much from the absence of those one 
loves." 

But when this vicaire, of whom he soon became 
so fond, was first sent to him, he met him with a 
certain reserve and anxiety. This was because he 
meditated another flight. 

On Sunday, September 3rd 1853, the day following 
the installation of his colleague, M. Vianney went to 
see Catherine Lassagne and Jeanne Filiat, who had 
worked for him since the suppression of the Provi- 
dence, and announced to them that he was going to 
leave Ars that evening. He begged them to keep the 
secret, but, as had happened ten years previously, 
his intention became known. 

At midnight, when he opened his door, he found 
on the threshold the Abbe Toccanier with Brother 
Athanasius and Brother Jerome of the Sainte Famille. 
Brother Athanasius threatened him with ringing the 
tocsin. " Veiy well, do so," he answered briefly, 
" and let me pass." The Abbe Toccanier remonstrated 
with him, but as all words seemed useless he be- 
thought himself of taking away his breviary, and M. 
Vianney was obliged to go back to the presbytery to 
fetch the book which he thought he had forgotten. 
Once there, the missionary suddenly showed him 



ATTEMPTS AT FLIGHT 99 

the portrait of Mgr. Devie. " M. le Cur^," said he, 
" look at Mgr. Devie. I am sure that at this moment 
he is looking at you reproachfully. If one ought to 
respect a bishop's wishes during his life, one certainly 
ought to do so still more after his death. Remember 
what he told you ten years ago." M. Vianney 
appeared touched, but he was not convinced ; he 
stammered : " Monseigneur will not scold me. He 
knows how much I need to weep over my poor life." 

The Comte des Garets who arrived at this moment 
was not more successful. M. Vianney scarcely 
listened to him, answered him sharply, and deaf to 
all entreaties, made his way through the crowd which 
thronged his staircase. 

In the street a strange sight awaited him. The 
tocsin had roused the whole village, and the men, 
thinking that there was a fire, had brought pails of 
water. Others moved by the fear of some unknown 
danger came armed with sticks, scythes, and even 
guns. The words, " Monsieur le Cure," " Monsieur 
le Cure," continually repeated, reminded them of his 
flight ten years ago, and at length, understanding 
what was the matter, they all cried out with one 
voice, " Stay with us." 

" This appeared to me a favourable moment," 
relates the Abbe Toccanier, who has left us a 
detailed recital of the event ; " to make a last effort, 
I fervently addressed him in words inspired by God. 
I cannot recall all of them, and can only remember 
these : ' Ah, Monsieur le Cure, you who know so 
much about the lives of the Saints, have you for- 
gotten the perseverance and generous zeal of St 



100 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

Martin, who, with his crown already in his grasp, cried, 
* Non recusa lahorem ' ? and would you leave the 
furrow before your day's task is done ? Have you also 
forgotten the words of St Philip Neri, ' If I were 
already at the gates of Paradise, and a sinner 
demanded the help of my ministry, I would leave all 
the heavenly court to go and hear him ' ? — and you. 
Monsieur le Cure, would you have the courage to 
leave unheard the confessions of these poor sinners, 
who have come to you from so far ? Are you not 
responsible for their souls before God ? " 

These vehement words provoked a torrent of tears 
and complaints. The parishioners and the pilgrims 
surrounded M. Vianney, compelled him to walk, and 
led him to the church. 

He went to the Sanctuary, and, prostrating him- 
self, prayed and wept for a long time, then passed into 
the sacristy for a few moments' conversation with 
the Comte des Garets, after which he re-entered the 
church, where an anxious crowd was watching all his 
movements, and went straight to his confessional. 

The next day some persons who had influence 
over him begged him to abandon his plan, still he 
would promise nothing. But during the days fol- 
lowing, God made him understand by extraordinary 
favours that he was pleased with him for having sacri- 
ficed his love of solitude to the salvation of souls ; and, 
when the Abbe Toccanier plied him with questions in 
order to know the motive of his departure, he at length 
answered that he had wanted to gain an advantage 
over the bon Dieu, and now he was able to say to Him : 
" If I die a cure, it is Thou who hast so willed it." 



ATTEMPTS AT FLIGHT 101 

If his plan of flight had succeeded, he would have 
put himself under the direction of the Founder of the 
Marists, Pere Colin, one of his old fellow-students 
for whom he had always cherished great affection. 
The latter had founded, a year before, at Notre Dame 
de la Neyliere (Rhone) a kind of mitigated Order 
of Trappists, and also an (Eiivre for the Perpetual 
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It was there 
that the Cure d'Ars was to have retired. His room 
had been prepared, and he was expected, when they 
learned that his parishioners had succeeded in keep- 
ing him with them. 

This attempt to become a Religious ended like the 
one which preceded it. When prevented from being 
a Marist, he became an associate of the Third 
Order of Mary, and when he renounced all idea of 
becoming a Capuchin, he was admitted into the 
Third Order of St Francis. One could at that time 
belong to more than one of the Third Orders. 

M. Vianney never again attempted to give up his 
ministry, and less than two years later, having 
undertaken a journey in order to satisfy the demands 
of fraternal piety, he saw in the obstacles which 
prevented him from finishing it, a new proof that 
Providence would not allow him to interrupt his 
laborious task even for one day. 

On January 26th 1855, his brother Francis lay 
dying, and his nephew Antoine came to fetch him. 
He set out in a carriage accompanied by the latter, 
the Abbe Toccanier and Brother Jerome. After they 
had gone a very short distance he became indisposed 
and attacked with vomiting. This obliged him to get 



102 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

out and walk four or five kilometres, leaning on a 
vine-prop, for which he had paid forty sous to a 
passer-by, having forbidden them to cut him a stick 
from the hedge, saying it would be a theft. At 
Parcieux he declared that he could go no further. 

They therefore turned back, while the Abbe Toc- 
canier went on in the direction of Dardilly to carry 
to the dying man, the benediction and last messages 
of his brother. At the hill of Trevoux they met the 
omnibus which was coming back from Ars. The 
pilgrims, on recognising M. Vianney, all descended 
from the omnibus, and accompanied him back to the 
door of his church. 

He did not again leave Ars, which for more than 
four years longer continued to be the scene of this 
extraordinary pilgrimage that occupies such a great 
place in the history of the Catholic Church in France 
in the nineteenth century, and gives so original an 
aspect to the life we are relating. It was certainly not 
the first time that our country had seen a man, in 
return for his unbounded humility and piety, and in 
sign of his supernatural mission, acquire an immense 
ascendency over souls and even over the powers of 
nature. Still it was many years since such a spec- 
tacle had been seen among us, and as the Saints 
themselves are not stereotyped copies of each other, 
so the Pilgrimage of Ars had its own individual charac- 
teristics not found elsewhere in the annals of sanctity. 

We now hasten to describe its different aspects, and 
to explain how this holy cure attracted souls from afar 
in order to convert them ; how he decided vocations 
and encouraged good works, and how he consoled 
and healed. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE PILGRIMAGE. ITS PHYSIOGNOMY 

JT was between 1825 and 1830 that the pilgrims 
began to find their way to Ars. Such were their 
numbers that it was necessary to arrange for five 
services of conveyances each day to take them there, 
and also to construct several inns where they could 
lodge. Even then there was sometimes not enough 
accommodation, in which case the village people 
offered their houses. It thus happened that eight or 
ten strangers were crowded for the night in a narrow 
room ; and they were no more fortunate as regards 
their food. Persons accustomed to every kind of 
comfort joyfully accepted this summary hospitality. 
" When near the Cure d'Ars," wrote a pilgrim, " we 
forgot the necessities of life. Badly lodged, badly 
fed, obliged to rise before day-break, hurried, elbowed, 
pushed about, we braved cold, hunger, thirst, and 
sleeplessness — in fact everything ; all this simply 
to hear a few words from the good Saint." 

Pilgrims came to Ars from the most distant pro- 
vinces of France, from Brittany, B^arn, Flanders, 
Languedoc, and even from Belgium, England, and 
North and South America. There one met nuns 
with every description of comettes, and peasant 

women in all kinds of costumes; while the many 

103 



104 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

different kinds of head-gear reminded one of a fair 
day at St Jean de Maurienne. But this was not all. 
Before the delighted eyes of the inhabitants of Ars, 
who were in nowise astonished to see men of talent, 
power, fortune and high birth, come and bow down to 
sanctity, passed in endless procession bishops (among 
whom were Cardinal Bonald and Mgr. Dupanloup), 
Heads of various Orders, Generals, Prefects and Pro- 
fessors of the University, merchants, bankers, and 
men bearing ancient and honoured names. Fathers 
brought their children to Ars ; the heads of Institu- 
tions their pupils ; cures led thither a great part of 
their parish. When a pilgrim returned home his 
accounts at once caused others to set out, and thus 
the chain was never broken ; yet it was only main- 
tained by these oral accounts, for neither news- 
papers nor books contributed until his death to 
spread the fame of the Cure d'Ars. 

As soon as a pilgrim had entered Villefranche 
or Trevoux, and was in the conveyance which was 
to take him to the end of his journey, he heard of 
nothing but the Saint. On arriving at the village 
square he saw in all the shop windows the picture 
of the holy cure. Scarcely had he alighted than 
he would hasten to the church to have a glimpse 
of him, and though this might not be possible by 
what he saw around him he began to understand 
the great influence which this humble priest ex- 
ercised over souls. 

In the choir, fifty, sixty or even a hundred men 
seated in two rows, were waiting their turn to enter 
the sacristy. In spite of their number there was no 



THE PILGRIMAGE. ITS PHYSIOGNOMY 105 

disorder. On their faces there was scarcely a trace 
of weariness and lassitude, nothing but recollected- 
ness and fervour, or perhaps the anxiety of an 
uneasy conscience. If they were asked how long 
they had been there, most of them answered : 
"Since two o'clock this morning," or, "Since 
midnight when M. le Cure opened the church." 
Some of them explained that they had been there 
since the evening before, and that in order to keep 
their turn they had slept in the vestibule of the 
church. The new-comer would then be quite amazed 
to learn that men were capable of enduring some- 
times a whole day and night of watching and waiting, 
not for the sake of being present at a spectacle, but 
to labour for the salvation of their souls, a thing to 
which men generally devote the least time and 
effort. He said to himself that in the little sacristy 
of Ars very precious counsels must be received, since 
men counted as nothing the fatigue, by which they 
were obtained. 

The women were in the nave which was even 
more crowded. The fervour was the same, but 
naturally there was less order. In fact certain 
measures were necessary to maintain it. Some 
persons willingly undertook the office of gendarmes, 
keeping in their places the most impatient among the 
women, who being no doubt desirous of easing their 
consciences as soon as possible, were prone to over- 
look the rights of others. An iron bar shut off the 
chapel of St Jean the Baptist in which was the con- 
fessional, and this only allowed the penitents to pass 
in one after another. The spectacle of this church 



106 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

filled with men and women praying, and waiting for 
their turn to speak to M. Vianney, lasted for several 
hours, for the cure confessed on an average sixteen 
hours a day — sometimes eighteen — never less than 
fifteen, for more than thirty years. But there were 
moments in which all the pilgrims in the church 
of Ars were interrupted in their solitary meditations, 
when all eyes were turned in the same direction, 
and every heart beat in unison. 

At seven or eight o'clock in the morning, accord- 
ing to the season, M. Vianney used to say his Mass, 
and when he had finished he advanced to the Com- 
munion rail in order to bless the children and also 
the medals and rosaries, which were presented to 
him. As long as he remained with his face towards 
the people all eyes were fixed on his frail person. 
They looked upon his emaciated frame, and wondered 
how he could endure the fatigue which he had to 
bear. They were never tired of gazing on his face, 
which, in its oval form, in the shape of the forehead, 
in the lines of the mouth, recalled strikingly that of 
Voltaire, and which had however such a different ex- 
pression. Above all, they tried to meet the glance 
of those deep eyes, which with a single flash so often 
penetrated the secrets of guilty consciences, or 
kindled the flame of repentance in the hearts of the 
most obdurate. 

At seven o'clock in the evening M. Vianney left 
the sacristy where he confessed the men, and all 
eyes were turned to him as he ascended the pulpit, 
with his back slightly bent and his head down. People 
from the village came to join the pilgrims. Soon a 



THE PILGRIMAGE. ITS PHYSIOGNOMY 107 

very feeble voice like a child's, and scarcely audible, 
commenced the night prayers. All held their breath 
in order to hear better ; and when the cure recited 
the Act of the Love of God, no one could restrain 
his tears. 

A distinguished Religious, who had been told 
that one could not hear the Cure d'Ars without 
weeping, had assisted at his catechism and been 
interested, edified and even touched, but without 
being, as he expected, overwhelmed by this popular 
eloquence — too strong perhaps for a refined palate. 
But in the evening, when pronouncing the simple 
words: "My God, I love Thee with all my heart," 
M. Vianney's voice had such a celestial accent that 
tears flowed from his eyes. 

This Religious was however an exception, and 
there were few pilgrims present at the famous 
Catechisms who did not weep. 

Just before eleven o'clock in the morning the 
church was always filled ; all the strangers who 
were staying at Ars were there. M. Vianney passed 
through their crowded ranks, not with head bent, as 
in the evening, but lifted high, with eyes sparkling, 
Neither the number, nor the station of his audience 
impressed him. He, who was usually so timid, had 
an imperturbable assurance when preaching, so 
indifferent was he as to what might be thought of 
his eloquence. 

After a few minutes of silent prayer before the 
Tabernacle, his only preparation, he ascended the 
pulpit. He first gazed round upon his audience. 
Sometimes he singled out one individual, and those 



108 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

pilgrims who were thus noticed have owned, although 
it was a trial to their self-love, that by a marvellous 
intuition he had perfectly described their evil in- 
clinations, exposed their weaknesses, and relieved 
their anguish. When he had thus taken possession 
of his listeners, and they had all felt the ardent 
glance of his flashing eyes, M. Vianney commenced. 
It is very difficult to-day to give an exact idea of 
his eloquence. 

Four volumes of his sermons have been published, 
but they all belong to the first years of his apostolic 
life. They are the discourses, long prepared and 
painfully learnt by heart, which he gave each Sunday, 
before he had any other hearers but his parishioners ; 
and many of them, at least as regards their form, 
have certainly only a very distant resemblance to 
the catechisings of the last thirty years. After 1826 
he had no longer the leisure to write out a single 
instruction. Very soon he had no time for any 
other preparation than a short prayer to the Holy 
Spirit. At first he was very nervous at being thus 
dependent on his own resources, remembering that 
even after all the trouble he took, and when he used 
to devote several days to reading and writing, his 
memory had sometimes betrayed him. But it was 
quite different when he spoke from the fulness of 
his heart, and he unwittingly became a real orator. 
Of this orator the published sermons give us but a 
very incomplete idea. 

The Abbe Monnin, who often heard him speak, 
has published a resume of his Catechisings and 
homilies under the title of " L'Esprit du Cure 



THE PILGRIMAGE. ITS PHYSIOGNOMY 109 

d'Ars," which has been made from notes taken at M. 
Vianney's catechisms by the young girls of the 
Providence, and also from the former's own recollec- 
tions. Probably nothing has been altered, but many 
facts have been weakened. These notes are simply 
brief summaries, since an instruction of three quarters 
of an hour's duration is sometimes condensed into 
a few pages, which may be read in ten minutes. 
Still, even these are extremely precious to the 
biographer who wishes to understand how the words 
of the Cure d'Ars had such power over souls, and 
also to such minds as piously treasure the least word 
which fell from the lips of him who was so full of 
the love of God ; in any case, it is useful to read 
these sermons, for it was in writing them that the 
orator was formed, and from time to time we have 
the promise of what he became later on. 

The Cure d'Ars boasted neither correct syntax 
nor methodical composition, but it seems to me that 
he possessed in a remarkable degree the power of 
attracting attention, in itself one of the chief titles 
to eloquence, and often the only one of popular 
orators. He certainly at times sinned against 
the rules of grammar, but he knew how to make 
a pause at the right moment in order to take 
surer aim. Again he might be wanting in sobriety 
and elegance of language in developing his subject, 
but he knew how to vigorously underline everything 
of importance. No doubt he did this by such 
familiar formulas as : " Tenez jnes enfants, ecoutez- 
bien ga," but in the way in which he used them, one 
recognised a man who knew how to judge, from the 



110 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY,CUR6 D'ARS 

countenances of his hearers, the effect produced by 
his words, who understood when they did not seize 
his meaning, and when they desired some explana- 
tion, and who with infallible tact always felt exactly 
when their attention was on the point of flagging. 
M. Vianney's vocabulary was not refined. Either 
he did not perceive this, or else he purposely chose, 
as being clearer to his listeners, those words which 
were most familiar to them. He constantly em- 
ployed idioms, many of which though incorrect were 
used in the Lyonese region, but his language had 
one charm which neither a lettered nor an unlettered 
audience could resist — it was full of imagery. 

The present Cure of Ars recently (1895) asked an 
old inhabitant of the parish what his predecessor's 
preaching was like. " His preaching," answered the 
other, "was full of comparisons." 

Among these metaphors there are some which 
are familiar and even trivial, but others which are 
charming; there are certainly many which he had 
gathered during the time of his laborious preparation, 
and which may be found in the sermons of certain 
preachers of the beginning of the seventeenth 
century ; again there are others which are happy 
memories of his life as shepherd and peasant, and 
which he had stored up during the course of his 
conversations and meditations. I do not think a 
great number would be worth quoting separately. 
What seems to me even more striking than their 
originality is their abundance and diversity, giving 
one the impression of a man who in every phase of 
the external world, and in all the events of life, had 



THE PILGRIMAGE. ITS PHYSIOGNOMY 111 

never met with anything which did not remind him 
of God and eternity. 

These images were perhaps more numerous than 
felicitous, when he needed to explain to his hearers, 
who were often ignorant, such mysteries as the 
work of the Holy Spirit in a soul. 

" Without the Holy Spirit we are like stones on 
the road. Take in one hand a sponge full of water, 
in the other a little pebble, and squeeze them both 
equally. Nothing will come from the pebble, and 
from the sponge you will get water in abundance. 
The sponge is the soul filled with the Holy Spirit, 
and the pebble is the cold and hard heart in which 
the Holy Spirit does not dwell." 

" The soul which possesses the Holy Spirit enjoys 
a sweetness in prayer which makes it find the time 
always too short ; it never loses the feeling of God's 
Holy Presence. His heart before our Saviour at 
the Sacrament of the altar is as a bunch of grapes 
in the wine-press." 

" The Holy Spirit is like a man who has a good 
horse and carriage, and wishes to take us to Paris. 
We have only to consent, and to get in. It 
would be so easy to do so. The Holy Spirit desires 
to lead us to heaven ; we have only to say yes, and 
let Him guide us." 

" The Holy Spirit is like a gardener who is working 
in the soul. The Holy Spirit is our servant." 

" Here is a gun ; you load it, but it needs someone 
to fire it off. In the same way there is in us a 
capability of doing good. It is the Holy Spirit who 
kindles in us good desires, and good works follow," 



112 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

" The Holy Spirit reposes in pious souls as the 
dove in its nest. He broods over good desires in 
a pure soul as a dove over its little ones." 

" The Holy Spirit leads us like a mother does her 
two-year old child, or, like a man who sees leading 
the blind." 

His catechisings were always full of word pictures, 
when he wanted to bring home hard truths, as for 
instance the necessity of loving one's crosses. 

" Crosses on the road to heaven are like a beauti- 
ful stone bridge over a river. Christians, who do not 
suffer, pass over this river on a fragile bridge, always 
ready to give way under their tread." 

" He who does not love his crosses may perhaps 
be saved, but with great difficulty. He will be but 
a little star in the firmament of Heaven." 

" He who has suffered for God will shine like a 
beautiful sun." 

" Crosses transformed into the flames of love are 
like a bundle of thorns which is thrown into the fire, 
and reduced to ashes. The thorns are hard, but 
their ashes are soft." 

" Put some beautiful grapes in the wine-press, 
and delicious juice will flow from them. The soul 
under the wine-press of tribulation produces a liquor 
which nourishes and fortifies it. When we have no 
crosses, we are dry ; if we bear them with resig- 
nation we experience consolation, sweetness, and 
happiness. It is the beginning of Heaven. God, 
the Blessed Virgin, the angels and saints surround 
us. They are by our side, and watch over us. 
The passage from this life to the next of a good 



THE PILGRIMAGE. ITS PHYSIOGNOMY 113 

Christian tried by affliction, is like that of a person 
carried upon a bed of roses." 

" Thorns give forth balm, and sweetness flows 
from the Cross, but we must press the thorn in 
our hands and the Cross to our hearts so that they 
may distil the sweetness which they contain." 

When he treated subjects which were particularly 
dear to his heart, such as sweetness in prayer, the 
orator gave full rein to his fancy : — 

" Prayer is a fragrant dew, but one must pray with 
a pure heart in order to feel this refreshing dew." 

" A sweetness is exhaled from prayer like the juice 
which is distilled from ripe grapes." 

" Prayer purifies our soul from matter. It bears 
it on high as fire inflates a balloon." 

" The more one prays the more one wishes to pray; 
like a fish which swims at first on the surface of the 
water, and afterwards plunges in the depths, advanc- 
ing further and further. Even so does the soul 
plunge in an abyss, and lose itself in the sweetness 
of communion with God." 

A truly popular orator, M. Vianney expressed all 
his thoughts in a concrete manner. His preaching 
was composed of examples, recitals and dialogues, 
acts witnessed, or words overheard, and of real or 
imaginary scenes. To quote some examples: — 

" If one said to these poor lost souls who have 
been for a long time in hell : ' We are going to place 
a priest at the door ; all those who wish to confess 
have only to go out.' My children, do you believe 
that a single one would remain ? The most guilty of 
them would not be afraid to confess his sins even 



114 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

before all the world. Oh how quickly hell would be 
deserted and heaven filled ! Well, we have the time 
and means, but these poor lost ones have not. 
Besides, I am sure that these unfortunate ones 
when in hell exclaim : • Cursed priest, had I never 
known thee, I should not have been so guilty.' " 

" You see that lukewarm soul which does not 
hesitate to talk and interrupt its prayers upon the 
slightest pretext. Does it wish to offer the day to 
God or to say its Benedicite and Thanksgiving ? It 
does all that, it is true, but often without thinking to 
whom it is speaking. It does not even cease work- 
ing. If a man, he turns his cap or hat about in his 
hands, just as if he meant to sell it. Is it a woman ? 
She recites them whilst cutting bread for her soup, 
or putting wood on the fire, or even whilst scolding 
her children and servants. 

'* Lukewarm souls do not perhaps work upon the 
Holy Sabbath, which persons with even a little 
religion consider positively forbidden ; but they have 
no scruples whatever in making a few stitches with a 
needle, in arranging trifling things in the household, 
or even in sending herdsmen into the field during 
the hours of divine office under the pretext that there 
is not enough food for the cattle ; thus they let their 
own souls and the souls of their servants perish also. 
A man will perhaps arrange his carts for the next 
day, visit his farms, stop a hole, cut ropes, bring his 
buckets and set them in order. What do you think 
about it, my brothers ? Is not all this, alas, only too 
true ? " 

These were, in fact, homely truths, learnt during 



THE PILGRIMAGE. ITS PHYSIOGNOMY 115 

his walks about the farms, and transported " toute 
pure " into his discourses by a man who knew, being 
from the people himself, that nothing engages their 
attention so much as an exact picture of life. 

His action was even more persuasive than his 
speech. Those who heard him only on the eve of 
his death, when he had lost his teeth, and spoke, 
sitting in a chair placed against the High Altar, 
could not judge what he was in his prime. Then he 
always went into the pulpit, and all his being seemed 
instinct with eloquence. His hand struck the edge 
of the pulpit ; his body seemed to lift itself in the air, 
as if the ground would have burnt his feet ; his words 
came rushing forth in a torrent, as if it were beyond 
his power to keep back the truths which were 
brimming over from his heart. His eyes were con- 
stantly bathed in tears. At certain moments his 
arms dropped against his sides, his bosom was 
oppressed, and he was almost suffocated; his zeal 
had exhausted him. But that powerlessness to say 
as much as he felt achieved his victory. 

His subjects were always those comprised in 
Christian Doctrine. But the most characteristic 
thing in his preaching was that from all subjects, 
however remote they might be, he always knew 
how, with swift-winged flight, to return to funda- 
mental truths, and bring his listener once more 
face to face with death and eternity. Also, ever 
and anon, he came back to the necessity of loving 
God ; to the invincible force one draws from His 
love, as natural to man as song is to birds ; to the 
ineffable joys tasted therein, and the unutterable 



116 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

anguish of the damned, who are deprived of it. The 
more he advanced in years, the more did the sum and 
substance of his teaching centre in these words, " My 
children, love the good God — He is so good. . . . Love 
Him with all your hearts." One day when some- 
one told him what pleasure he had felt on hearing 
him speak on this subject, he naively replied : •' It is 
because the love of God is my especial business." 

Such was this truly evangelical preaching, the most 
effectual heard from any pulpit in the nineteenth 
century, to which Lacordaire himself came one day 
to render homage. The meeting between the two 
orators took place on May 3rd 1 845. The next day 
they preached, each in the presence of the other. 
In the morning at the Mass, the country cure began 
an apology for speaking before the great orator of 
Notre-Dame. But he spoke of the Holy Spirit, and 
made it clear that the eloquence of the visible 
preacher is of little consequence, if the hearers know 
how to listen to the voice of the Invisible One 
speaking within their hearts. This was said with so 
much authority and unction that nobody — Lacordaire 
least of all— dreamt of questioning the eloquence of 
the Cure of Ars: each one being occupied in 
examining himself and in asking if Jie had always 
listened in a right spirit to the Word of God. At 
vespers, the illustrious orator apologised for being 
obliged to speak, in a place to which he had come 
only to ask for counsel. This he said with perfect 
modesty and great simplicity. The inhabitants of 
Ars were very proud that their cure should receive 
such praise from such lips. He himself apprehended 



THE PILGRIMAGE. ITS PHYSIOGNOMY 117 

one thing only, that the most admired preacher of 
his day had made a great act of faith and humility 
in coming to Ars, and he rejoiced without any 
thought of priding himself upon it. 

After this memorable visit, the pilgrims listened 
with added deference to a voice to which they knew 
Lacordaire had paid such earnest and thoughtful 
attention ; and the eleven o'clock instructions were 
better attended and more fruitful than ever. 

Every day between half- past eleven and twelve 
o'clock, whilst M. Vianney was descending from the 
pulpit, all the audience rushed out of the church, and 
remained grouped together on the road he had to 
pass in going to the Presbytery or the Providence. 
The same eager crowds awaited him on his return. 
The cure did not like these public marks of venera- 
tion, and tried at first to escape. But he quickly 
resigned himself to submit to them, since this short 
transit would afford him the opportunity of giving 
counsel and consolation to many. 

Almost before he appeared in sight the unanimous 
shout of '* Here he is " resounded. As he passed 
every head bent to receive his Benediction, and 
many a hand sought to take his. Cripples showed 
him their withered limbs, the unfortunate filled his 
ears with their tales of woe, and penitents did not 
blush to accuse themselves openly of their baseness. 
Everyone called him " father." 

He was also besieged with questions, often very 
naively put, though generally serious in their object ; 
they were perhaps about the conversion of a husband, 
the perseverance of a son, or the healing of a daughter. 



118 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

Some, however, were prompted by very material 
anxieties. It even happened, on certain occasions, 
that silly or impertinent persons dared to come to 
this man, all-engrossed as he was with eternal things, 
and consult him on frivolous matters. 

He went slowly from one to another, admirable 
both in patience and readiness of wit. The im- 
portunate were dismissed with a cold, sometimes an 
ironical word. " My father, let me say only one 
word to you." "My daughter, you have just said 
nearly twenty." The thoughtless, who only solicited 
direction to spare themselves the trouble of re- 
flecting, were referred, as they merited, to their 
catechism. But all serious care, all unfeigned 
grief, met with tender sympathy. All really dis- 
quieted souls received counsels appropriate to their 
state, and all those who needed a longer interview 
obtained the promise of one. Pure hearts were 
recognised at the first glance, and affectionately 
asked not to take a particle of time from a confessor 
whose sixteen to eighteen hours daily audience barely 
allowed him time to attend to the claims of the 
most needy. For instance in the case of a Sister of 
Charity, one of our dearest relatives who was beside 
her, saw her blessed and then dismissed, with the 
parental words, " Go away, my little one, you have 
no need of me." 

Many pilgrims did not approach M. Vianney, nor 
did he speak a word in private with them, except for 
one moment, on the village square. And yet they 
brought back with them from their journey impres- 
sions, which sweetened and edified the rest of their 



THE PILGRIMAGE. ITS PHYSIOGNOMY 119 

lives. To be fortified in the Faith, or turned into 
the way of righteousness, it had sufficed them to 
feel the hands of the saintly priest placed for an 
instant on their brow, to assist at the never-to-be 
forgotten sight of his triumphal passage through the 
crowd, to see his confessional besieged by an army 
of people of all ranks and conditions, to hear him 
recite the evening prayers with the fervour of art 
angel, and preach the word of God in the manner of 
the Apostles. With those who were able to kneel 
at his feet and reveal the inmost depths of their 
hearts, his influence was still stronger. But it was 
to hardened sinners, to men with tormented con- 
sciences, to souls uncertain of their way, that God 
had given him a special mission. 



CHAPTER VII 

THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS 

" I ET US pray for the conversion of sinners," the 
Cure d'Ars was fond of saying. " It is the 
most beautiful and useful of prayers, for the righteous 
are on the road to heaven, the souls in purgatory 
are sure to enter there 1 . . . But the poor sinners, 
the poor sinners! . . . How many souls we may 
convert by our prayers ! . . . All devotions are good, 
but there are none better than that." 

He himself prayed unceasingly, and made all 
around him pray for the conversion of sinners, and it 
was that which brought thousands of them to kneel 
before him in confession. 

Catherine Lassagne, endeavouring to explain the 
origin of the pilgrimage, writes in her notes : " But 
that which increased the influx of visitors more than 
anything else was the prayers of the Cure d'Ars for 
the conversion of sinners. The grace which he 
obtained was so powerful that it sought them out 
without leaving them an instance of repose. 

One could not give a more appropriate summary 
of the apostolic life of the Cure d'Ars than that of 
this simple peasant. He was so zealous for the 
salvation of souls that, in order that none of his 
time might be lost, he was not obliged to go and seek 



THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS 121 

for them ; grace sent them to him, without leaving 
either him or them a moment's repose. The history 
of the saints does not offer us any other example 
of an apostolate carried on under similar condi- 
tions. For more than thirty years the Cure d'Ars 
laboured thus for the conversion of sinners, and 
would willingly have toiled still longer. 

" M. le Cure," said the Abbe Toccanier one day to 
him, " if the bon Dieu gave you the choice of going 
to heaven this very moment, or of remaining on earth 
to labour for the conversion of sinners, which would 
you do ? " 

" I think I should remain." 

"Is it possible? The Saints are so happy in 
heaven ; no more temptations, no more sufferings ! " 

" That is true, the Saints are well off — they have 
nothing to do. They cannot glorify God like us by 
labour, suffering and sacrifice for the salvation of 
souls." 

" Would you then remain on earth until the end 
of the world ? " 

" Yes, I would." 

He never felt the least pride in the sublime mission 
which was the reward of his zeal. His humility, 
incredible as it may seem, was thereby increased a 
hundredfold, for he was quite persuaded that God, 
who chooses to accomplish His designs with feeble 
instruments, had chosen him because there was no 
worse. " The good God who has need of nobody," 
he said one day, " makes use of me for this great 
work, although I am only an ignorant priest. If 
He had by Him a more miserable instrument 



122 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

ready, He would have made use of it, and would 
have done a hundred times better work." He 
said the same day : " One will never know in this 
world how many sinners have found their salvation 
at Ars." 

It is indeed impossible to give any approximate 
figure of the conversions which took place through 
the ministry of the Cure D'Ars. One can only try 
and explain how sinners were usually brought to him, 
and how he received them. 

Many fell at his feet quite prepared for the con- 
quest which he was to make of their soul. For 
some time past they had been living bad lives, but 
one day their conscience had made itself heard ; and 
filled with remorse they had set out for this little 
village in the Dombes, where they had been told that 
they would find a good priest to whom it would be 
easy to confess. 

So it was with that waggoner, who, in the early 
days of the pilgrimage, arrived with his waggon 
in the middle of the night in the village square, 
and went and knocked vigorously at M. le Cure's 
door, calling to him to come down. The astonished 
cure did not at first answer, but after a fresh 
summons he opened his door and found himself 
face to face with a big jovial fellow, who said to 
him : " Come to the church, it is all right ; I wish to 
confess and at once." " Come then, my friend," 
answered M. Vianney. He confessed the man, 
embraced him, and seeing he had a very bad cold, 
gave him some shoes and stockings. 

With such souls who came to him spontaneously 



THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS 123 

the apostle's task was made easy. A word murmured 
in their ear, an arm affectionately thrown round 
their neck, was sufficient to make their words gush 
forth and to awaken repentance in their hearts. 
Soon the penitent arose with a radiant face, and he 
sometimes manifested his joy in the most naive 
manner. 

The Cur^ d'Ars was fond of quoting the words 
that an honest fellow, whom he had recently con- 
verted, said to him one day : " Oh, my father, how 
happy I am I I would not for a hundred francs have 
not confessed. Until now I felt a void here," point- 
ing to his heart. "You have filled this gap; I do 
not feel it any more ; nothing is wanting ; all is full." 

If at times repentance seemed tardy, the Saint 
had a way of saying things which no one could 
resist. One day, one of these half-contrite sinners 
was astonished to see his confessor weeping abun- 
dantly. '• Why are you weeping thus, my father ? " 
" I am weeping because you do not weep." These 
words melted the ice, and the penitent burst into 
tears. 

With a great number of sinners the work of grace 
was not so easy. These had not come to Ars to 
confess. Some of them had only yielded to the 
persuasions of a wife or daughter, who had long 
prayed in secret for their conversion. It may have 
happened that one day she asked him to accompany 
her to Ars, hoping that he would return reconciled 
with God; and out of complaisance he had consented 
to accompany her. Most of them had been impelled 
by curiosity to see the man to whom such miracles 



124 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

were attributed, and in many cases this curiosity 
was anything but sympathetic. Sometimes it had 
even been profoundly hostile. Some of them had 
boasted of unmasking the thaumaturgus. Others, 
without doubting his good faith, had flattered them- 
selves they would be able to prove from a living 
example that religion had no other foundation than 
the credulity of the simple. But they were taken 
in their own snares, for their curiosity was a bait 
by which grace attracted them into the net of this 
great fisher of men. 

When these esprits forts had entered the little 
church at Ars, they were very soon convinced that no 
farce was being played. When once they had seen 
the Abbe Vianney, they had no longer any desire to 
compare him to a charlatan, and thus many of them 
began to feel very interested in what was taking 
place. They desired to look into things more closely ; 
they questioned this one and that one ; they assisted 
at the Mass, at the 11 o'clock instruction, and at 
the evening prayer ; they tried to meet M. le Cure 
on the village square. Having come for a few hours 
they remained several days, and ended by ranking 
themselves among those who were waiting their 
turn to confess. They did not breathe in vain the 
atmosphere which pervaded the village of Ars. 

For others — and these were numerous — a more 
direct appeal to God was necessary. 

If M. Vianney was never a setneiir d'idees he soon 
became a very penetrating psychologist. His youth 
had been spent not at college, but in the village, in 
living rather than in studying, and the practical 



THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS 125 

theology, which he had learnt with M. Bailey, had 
already sharpened the acute spirit of observation 
which was natural to him. After he had begun to 
hear a hundred confessions daily, the weaknesses of 
the poor human heart held no longer any secret for 
him. At the first word he understood all, and 
foresaw so easily what one was going to say that 
the confession was made without any effort. But as 
a complement to these natural gifts, which did not 
always suffice, although in many cases they greatly 
helped him, and in order that no excuse might be 
left to the sinners who might come to Ars to go 
away unconverted, he received, like St Vincent 
Ferrier, the gift of reading consciences as though 
they were an open book. Every day one saw him 
suddenly go out of the sacristy or the confessional, 
and beckon to a person who had just entered the 
church. It was always someone who could not 
wait, or was particularly in need of compassion. A 
great number of penitents owned that he had 
recalled to them faults they had forgotten, or of 
which they were ashamed. In some cases he 
made the confession himself. V^hen one said to 
him : " I have not confessed for a long time, per- 
haps for thirty years," he often answered : " My 
friend, it is exactly so many years, and it was 
in such and such circumstances, as you will 
remember." 

Thus armed with this extraordinary gift, added to 
his profound knowledge of the human heart, he did not 
hesitate to accost the undecided and the stubborn. 
As if he guessed their unwillingness he sometimes 



126 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

gave them in passing a glance which penetrated 
their hearts. At other times he went and took them 
by the hand, and led them to his confessional. 
There, if they still resisted, he revealed so much of 
their past that they were conquered. 

It would be very difficult to give a detailed and 
complete account of these conversions which caused 
men, who had been led to M. Vianney out of more 
or less benevolent curiosity, to return to their homes 
completely changed. Many went away without any 
one knowing more than that they were converted, 
and that their hearts were overflowing with joy; but 
others were less discreet, and judging from the dis- 
closures which they made, prompted by their 
gratitude, one may imagine how those, who remained 
silent, were brought back to God. 

Among the many conversions, which might be re- 
lated here, are some which we have chosen because 
we have had them from a particularly worthy 
source. 

In 1852 Fran9ois Dorel, painter and plasterer 
at Ville-franche-sur-Saon, was thirty-two years old, 
and had long forgotten the way to church. " Let 
us go to Ars to-morrow," said one of his friends one 
day. " We shall see this famous cure who confesses 
night and day." 

" Do you perhaps wish to confess ? " 

" Why not ? " 

«* Well, do as you like. Let us go, and while you 
are confessing I shall go shooting." 

The next day Francois Dorel took his dog and 
gun, not so much for shooting, as to avoid looking 



THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS 127 

like a pilgrim, and the two friends set out on their 
way. 

They arrived at Ars just at the moment when 
M. Vianney was crossing the square in the midst of 
the kneeling crowd, so they approached and looked 
on. Meanwhile the holy priest had advanced slowly, 
and found himself face to face with Fran9ois. Cast- 
ing a rapid glance at the dog, which was a beautiful 
beast, and another at the man, he said: " Monsieur, 
it is to be hoped that your soul is as beautiful as your 
dog." Fran9ois Dorel blushed and hung down his 
head. A moment later he was confessing and shed- 
ding abundant tears. That same year he set out for 
the Trappe d'Aiguebelle, where he took the vows 
under the name of Frere Arsene, and died on the 
18th of December 1888. 

It was also at la Trappe that Antoine Saubin went 
to expiate the sins of his youth, after having been 
converted at Ars. He was a bootmaker at Lyons. 
He had been piously brought up by his mother, but 
she died when. he was fifteen years old, and less than 
a year after he had given up all his religious 
practices. Howeven, he did not quite lose his faith. 
Remembering his pious youth he desired to be 
converted, but had not the courage ; and at twenty- 
seven years of age he ended by trying to find in 
spiritualism, something to satisfy the hunger for 
supernatural things with which he was tormented. 
That which he was shown caused him great trouble. 
Night and day he was haunted by terrifying visions. 
As he then spoke of going to Ars his friends sought to 
deter him, alleging the multitude of pilgrims and the 



128 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

little chance there was of his being received. This 
was in 1859, a few months before the death of M. 
Vianney, and access to him was more difficult than 
ever. Saubin decided however to make the journey. 
" If the Cure d'Ars," he said, " is a clairvoyant, as 
they pretend, he will guess my needs and know my 
great anxiety." In fact scarcely had he arrived when 
the cure, who was kneeling in the chapel of St 
Philomena, turned round and signed to him that he 
would be at his disposal. Some minutes later he 
received him, heard the history of his life, made an 
appointment with him for the next day, and 
promised him that, at the second interview, the 
visions which troubled him would disappear. He 
then ordered him to go and confess at Notre 
Dame de Fourvieres. 

The pilgrim followed this counsel, regained his 
peace of mind, and afterwards set out for the Trappe 
of Notre Dame des Neiges in the department of 
Ardeche. 

When Mgr. de Langalerie founded the Trappe of 
Notre Dame des Neiges, the little colony, chosen to 
go and take possession of the pestilential domain, 
where it was to be decimated by malarial fever, 
until it had reclaimed the land and made it healthy, 
stopped on its way at the tomb of the Cure d'Ars. 
Antoine Saubin, now Frere Joachim, was one of the 
colonists, who related the history of his conversion 
to the missionaries of Ars, and added that many of 
his comrades having by his advice made a voyage 
there, had been converted. 

Antoine Saubin and Fran9ois Dorel were illiterate 



THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS 129 

men, but the person of whom we are about to speak 
was on the contrary highly educated. 

He was a Voltairean like so many others of his 
time, of loose morals but quick intelligence, and was 
fond of maintaining that religion was simply an in- 
vention of cunning priests. He did not, however, 
hinder his wife from going to Mass, nor even 
to confession, under the pretext that religion was 
necessary for women and for the common people. 
At the same time he did not spare her any of 
those witticisms by which freethinkers love to 
assert their mental superiority. She bore his 
conduct with patience, and met his scorn with 
invariable gentleness. 

One day she begged him to accompany her 
to Ars. He consented, for he was delighted to go 
and amuse himself at the expense of a foolish 
multitude who let itself be deceived by the pro- 
ceedings of an old charlatan — for so he called 
M. Vianney. 

Arrived at Ars, he went to the little church, which 
he found crowded. He at once began staring with 
scornful pity at the men and women who were 
waiting their turn to enter the confessional. It is 
always, thought he, the vile peats of the poet, the 
credulous and unreasoning multitude, which is at 
the mercy of any clever comedian. Can this priest 
really be in good faith ? "Who knows? It is certain 
that he is an ignorant, unlettered, and simple man. 
What can he reveal to this gaping crowd ? " While 
he was meditating on this problem M. Vianney came 
out of his confessional, and with an imperious gesture 



130 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

invited him to follow him to the sacristy. Astonished 
and embarrassed the sceptic obeyed; but on the 
latter making him a sign to kneel down he remon- 
strated, saying he would not confess for he had no 
faith. " Kneel down," answered M. Vianney, looking 
steadfastly at him. Under this ardent glance the 
recalcitrant fell on his knees. At once the holy cure, 
who had probed the very depths of his conscience, 
made him tell his sins. He recalled every circum- 
stance of them, stated the facts precisely^ even to the 
smallest detail, and drew from him the avowal that 
all was indeed quite true. The light of faith was at 
once restored to the sinner, who had just humiliated 
himself, and who exclaimed amidst his sobs : " My 
God, I believe, I adore Thee, I love Thee, and ask 
Thee for pardon." 

When saying to him : •* Go and sin no more," 
the confessor added : " Mon ami, hold yourself 
in readiness, the bon Dieu will soon call you to 
Himself." 

He followed this counsel, and it was well he did so, 
for two years later, while walking on the Quai Bercy 
in Paris he fell, struck down by cerebral congestion. 
His widow feared for his salvation, but the Cure d'Ars 
re-assured her : " Your husband is saved," he said to 
her, " but it is necessary to pray much for the salva- 
tion of his soul." 

This soul had given way at the first attack. Others 
were slower in submitting. 

For more than two years Madame N. had vainly 
wept and prayed for the conversion of her husband. 
Business having called the latter to Lyons, his wife 



THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS 131 

accompanied him, and on his return journey, in order 
to give her pleasure, he took her to Ars. 

She had an interview with M. Vianney, and on 
going back to the hotel, said to her husband, •' Mon 
ami, you really ought to go and see the good cur^. 
He is an extraordinary man, quite like a saint of 
former times. You would be pleased to know him." 
M. N. willingly consented to make the acquaintance 
of a man who was so much talked of. 

On being introduced into his presence he saluted 
him respectfully, and made some flattering remarks 
on his great reputation. M. Vianney blushed 
nervously, and spoke on indifferent topics. But 
when his visitor rose to leave, he recalled him with 
a decided gesture : " My friend, are you going away 
already ? But you have still something to tell me." 
— " Pardon me, M. le Cure, but I have nothing more 
to say to you. I only came here to present you my 
respects." The Cur6 d'Ars fixed his penetrating 
glance upon him. " Go there," said he, pointing to 
the confessional. 

" But, Monsieur le Cure, I did not come to 
confess. I shall perhaps do so one day, but am 
not inclined to at this moment." And as M. 
Vianney continued to gaze at him in silence, he went 
on : *• M. le Cure, I cannot. ... I did not think of 
it. ... I must really reflect." But still saying 
•' I cannot " he fell on his knees. 

M. Vianney made an appointment with him for 
the next day, so that he might finish his confession, 
but during the second interview the sinner re- 
belled against grace. Scarcely had he been a few 



132 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR^ D'ARS 

moments with his confessor, when his wife, who 
was praying in a corner of the church, saw him 
hastily leave the sacristy. " What is the matter ? " 
said she. " Are you ill ? " " No, but let us go 
away at once." 

Madame N. was aghast. However, yielding to her 
entreaties, her husband agreed to defer his departure 
till the following morning, and also consented to be 
present at M. Vianney's mass. It was then that 
grace vanquished all resistance in this rebellious 
soul. Of his own free will he returned to the 
sacristy, and asked to continue his confession, which 
a few hours before he had decided to leave for ever 
unfinished. 

His wife, who, full of anguish, had one day 
beheld him arrogantly quitting the church with 
no intention of ever returning, now had the happi- 
ness of seeing him, catechism in hand, spend 
hours in re-learning those truths which he had 
quite forgotten. 

Sylvain Dutheil had long resisted grace, and yet 
his days were already numbered. 

Born at Clermont I'Herault he had, while quite 
young, joined the army. While there, he became 
consumptive, and returned to his family, with his 
health ruined and his soul in a still more dangerous 
state. One day, when passing through a street in 
Montpellier, he perceived a likeness of the Cure 
d'Ars in a shop window. He stopped, looked at 
it, and began to scoff. His sister, who accompanied 
him, told him he was wrong in so doing ; if he had 
any confidence in this holy man, he might perhaps 



THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS 133 

be cured. Whereupon Sylvain continued joking all 
the more. 

Still the thought of the Cure d'Ars never left 
him. During the night he saw his face continually 
in his dreams, and the next day he asked his 
sister to take him to this " vieux cure" as he called 
him. 

The Cur^ d'Ars did not restore his bodily health, 
but he undertook to cure his soul. The process was 
long, for the young man would not think of confess- 
ing. However, his illness made terrible progress. 
M. Vianney saddened, but not discouraged, went to 
see him every day at the hotel Pertinant. At last 
he was reconciled to God. On the 5th of December 
1855 the sick man, having received Holy Communion 
on the steps of the altar, was carried into the Sacristy. 
" How happy I am," he cried ; " I have never been so 
happy in all my life." When taken back to the 
hotel, he said to his mother : " The joy of my Com- 
munion makes me forget all my sufferings — I do not 
wish to leave this holy man. I desire to die here." 
His wish was granted, for he died that night. 

At the Catechising on the following day, the Cure 
d'Ars related the conversion and death of Sylvain 
Dutheil. This recital was extremely touching, and 
was heard by several witnesses ; for it being Sunday, 
the church was full of people- 
Later on the Cur6 d'Ars again spoke of this con- 
version, which made a great impression on him, 
either through the effort it had cost him — for from 
words which he let fall, one understood that this 
victory had been gained at the price of terrible 



134 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

interior suffering— or else through the strange means 
which grace had employed. " God makes use of 
anything," he said, " even of my carnaval" for it 
was thus he called his portrait, that little picture 
which had been so instrumental in the conversion 
of this sinner. 

Not every conversion was accomplished at Ars. 
Sometimes it was long after they had gone away 
that sinners at length responded to the Divine 
appeal, which had been addressed to them through 
the lips of M. Vianney ; and he himself had gained 
his heavenly reward before the good seed, which he 
had sown, sprang up in certain souls. 

In 1758 Louise Gimet, though only twenty, was 
already leading a bad life. When she came to Ars, 
as so many others did, to see the cure who worked 
miracles and had the gift of prophecy, he looked at 
her steadily and said : " Your hour has not yet 
come. Woe to you ! You will do much evil, but 
the good God in His mercy will have pity on you; 
you will be converted, thanks to the devotion you 
have for His Divine Mother." 

In fact, until then, Louise had still some devotion 
to the Blessed Virgin. An instance of this was 
quoted, which had been the general topic of con- 
versation at Lyons. One day in a village street, 
a young man, having grossly insulted the Blessed 
Virgin, at once received a box on the ears from a 
young woman who was passing ; this young woman 
was Louise Gimet. 

At first the words of the cure did not have much 
effect. She continued in Lyons, and afterwards in 



THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS 135 

Paris, the scandalous life upon which she had entered, 
and falling into impiety she finished by conceiving 
a violent hatred to priests. When the Civil War 
broke out, she dressed like a man, took a sword, put 
on a kipi with three rows of braid and a red belt, 
and under the name of Captain Pigerre, was given 
the command of a company. Tall, robust, and 
severe looking, having lived some years with a 
superior officer, she knew perfectly well how to play 
a soldier's part. However, she was anxiously wait- 
ing to try the correctness of her aim on the priests. 
She continually wandered with her men round the 
prisons, fearing that her prey would escape her ; but 
at length her hatred was gratified. On the 24th of 
May, she was among those who fired on the Arch- 
bishop, and as he was still breathing after the third 
charge, she dealt him violent blows with the butt 
end of her gun. On the 26th of May she shot P^re 
Olivaint. The latter, recognising a woman in the 
person of this captain, said to her calmly : " Madam, 
this costume does not become you." This fury 
afterwards owned that she had fired on thirteen 
priests. Being taken while fighting, she was con- 
demned to death, but the Superioress of St Lazare 
obtained a reprieve which saved her life. While the 
prisoner, left to her own reflections in this little cell, 
recalled all the incidents of her past life, the words 
of the Cur^ d'Ars came back to her : " The good 
God in His mercy will have pity on you." And the 
virtue of these words that had fallen from the lips of 
a saint, began to act insensibly on this erring soul. 
But it is only just that the honour of her conversion 



136 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

should be attributed, above all, to that one of her 
victims, whom she had treated so mercilessly. When 
the Superioress of St Lazare, w^ho from the first had 
said to her, " I want your soul and I shall have it," 
saw that the sinner was beginning to repent, she lent 
her the Sermons of Pere Olivaint. Louise owned 
that the reading of this book had had the greatest 
part in her return to God. She had, before her final 
conversion, to sustain terrible struggles ; but the 
transformation was complete, and for twenty years, 
by her sweetness, charity, and penitence, she ex- 
piated her past sins. 

She died at Montpellier at the Solitude of 
Nazareth. On her death-bed she was asked if 
she did not fear the judgment of God. She 
answered : " I have thrown myself entirely into 
the arms of His mercy, what is there to fear ? " 
The Cure d'Ars had not been the only, nor even the 
chief instrument of her salvation, but it was words 
of his which first began the work of grace in her. 

For some other souls much nearer God, it was 
not even necessary to hear the saintly cure's voice ; 
a visit to the scene of his apostolate converted 
them. 

The Comte de St G. was growing old, but had no 
desire to approach the Sacraments. He was not an 
unbeliever ; he even heard Mass on Sundays ; but 
the moment that confession was mentioned, he 
frowned and turned the conversation. Even his 
wife, in spite of the ascendency which her virtue 
and affection gave her in all other matters, in vain 
laid siege to his obstinate soul. 



THE PILGRIMAGE. THE CONVERSIONS 137 

One day, when almost hopeless, she begged him 
to accompany her on a pilgrimage she wished to 
make to the tomb of the Cur^ d'Ars. To please her 
he accepted. 

He entered the little church, approached the 
confessional where so many persons had knelt, and 
at this remembrance he was seized with an in- 
explicable distress and alarm. He went up to the 
room of the holy cure. When he found himself in 
this narrow chamber, which had been the scene of 
such heroic mortifications ; when he saw the poor 
furniture, and wretched bed, he suddenly understood 
what it was worth while to do to gain heaven, and 
his emotion was so great that everyone perceived it. 
The missionary who was there felt that the hour 
of grace had come, and suggested confession. The 
count bowed his head and assented. He was 
reconciled to God, and publicly manifested his 
naive joy. 

There was indeed cause for his happiness, for some 
months later, when living on his estate of St- Bonnet 
de Tussieux, he fell down struck by cerebral con- 
gestion. He immediately lost consciousness, and 
several priests who approached him could not make 
him hear. At last they called the missionary who 
had confessed him at Ars, who hastened to his bed- 
side. At the sound of his voice, the dying man 
awoke and made quite a lucid confession, then fell 
asleep for ever. The Cure d'Ars had wished to 
assist him in his last hour by the ministry of one 
of his successors, after having converted him by the 
sight of those places which had witnessed his 



138 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

sanctity. He was no longer in this world, but the 
marvellous virtue of his apostolic zeal was still 
effective. Like the great captain of the Middle 
Ages, this conqueror of souls gained victories after 
his death. 



CHAPTER VIII 

THE PILGRIMAGE : VOCATIONS, AND WORKS 

npHE Pontifical Decree, which proclaimed the 
virtue of our saint, declared he had " received 
special help and grace from God, to attract eager 
crowds of people to the confessional, day after day, 
and to bring back to a good life men lost in vice, 
adding, * This was his work par excellence.'' " 

The conversion of sinners was, in fact, as we have 
just seen, the supreme work of the Cure d'Ars; but 
it was not his only one. He had acquired, through 
the confessional, too extensive a knowledge of the 
human heart, and had received from God too 
extraordinary a gift of intuition, for his en- 
lightened judgment not to be made use of for 
other purposes. 

So every day, public conveyances set down in the 
market place of Ars, to mingle with the eager throng 
of pilgrims, a crowd of persons, bishops, cures of 
parishes, heads of religious orders, fathers and 
mothers of families, young men and maidens, all 
come from afar to ask counsel of the Cure 
d'Ars. 

He gave his advice very rapidly, never forgetting 
that his time belonged especially to sinners. Several 
women, who came to consult him, have related their 



140 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURfi D'ARS 

experiences. His answer was always given with 
great cordiality; but when they asked to confess, 
" Begin," was his reply. Then before they had 
finished their confiteor, he had closed down the 
grating on their side, and opened it on the other. 
If he did not refuse his counsel to devout souls, he 
did not think it worth while to hear their confession 
afterwards, since it could just as well be made to 
any other priest. The pilgrims, who found them- 
selves thus brusquely dismissed, were quite taken 
aback, and some tried to protest. But the persons 
appointed to keep order in the church, who under- 
stood M. Vianney's ways of proceeding, explained to 
them that it would be useless to insist ; then if they 
still continued to do so, they were taken gently by 
the arm, and quietly led away. 

The answers of the Cure d'Ars were not all 
equally luminous. His lucidity depended upon the 
frame of mind of the questioner. If the confidence 
of the penitents in him, who was the instrument of 
grace, was limited, grace, in her turn, gave him but 
a limited measure of inspiration. When they failed 
in good faith towards him, seeking nothing but the 
satisfaction of self-love or curiosity, they obtained 
a vague, elusive, trite reply; it seemed as if his 
vision were obscured. But when they came to him 
with pure intentions and honest hearts, they were 
almost always munificently rewarded. He had but 
to speak a few words, and immediately the darkness 
surrounding a problem was dissipated. When they 
had been a moment in his presence, they felt them- 
selves suddenly out of the labyrinth, in whose mazes 



PILGRIMAGE. VOCATIONS, WORKS 141 

they had wandered so long. And when he had 
pronounced, "That is where God is calling you," 
those who had groped their way in thick darkness, 
saw their destiny shaping itself before them in radiant 
light. 

He realised the words in Ecclesiastes to the 
full: "The just shall pour forth his wisdom like 
rain, he shall invoke the Lord in prayer, and the 
Lord shall direct his counsels." 

He acknowledged this himself one day, when a 
cur6 of the Diocese of Autun submitted to him a 
very complicated case of restitution. The priest 
had reflected about it himself and consulted others, 
but as his uncertainty still continued, he went to 
Ars. There he obtained such a quick and decisive 
solution that he could not suppress his astonishment. 
" Monsieur le Cure," he asked, " wherever did you 
get your theology ? " With a gesture which was 
a counsel rather than a reply, M. Vianney silently 
pointed to his prie-Dieu. 

People consulted the Cur^ d'Ars on all sorts of 
subjects, sometimes about purely material interests. 
For instance, should they sell their land, take a 
partner, settle that matter or accept this situation. 
Not a day passed without his having some such 
question to decide. He, whose only diet was 
potatoes, charitably listened to men completely ab- 
sorbed in their own creature comforts ; and it some- 
times happened that more than one of them left 
Ars with an answer that saved him from ruin. 

But it was not for the possession of the goods of 
this world that men generally applied to the Cure 



142 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

d'Ars. When they solicited his counsel, almost 
always the salvation or sanctity of a soul, a parish, 
or a community was at stake ; to be precise, it was, 
oftenest of all, a question of deciding a vocation, 
or founding some good work. The reader would 
strangely deceive himself, if on reading this word 
"vocation," he should imagine that the Cur6 d'Ars 
indiscriminately urged young men to enter the 
seminary, or young girls the cloister. His counsels 
were admirably prudent. We have more than one 
proof of this in his preaching. This priest, who 
took only one meal a day all the year round, did not 
preach mortification beyond measure. No, he told 
labourers that it was their duty to nourish their 
bodies sufficiently, in order to fit them for their daily 
toil. Although he loved works of devotion, and 
energetically opposed those who wished to renounce 
them for works of charity, he nevertheless said plainly 
in the pulpit : " We must be prudent in all our 
actions, and seek, not our own desires, but that 
which is most pleasing to God. Let us suppose you 
have twenty sous, which you destine for having a 
iVIass said ; but you see a poor family in indigence, 
starving for bread; it is better to give your money 
to these unfortunate outcasts, because the Holy 
Sacrifice is always celebrated : the priest will not 
fail to say the Holy Mass, whereas these poor 
people may die of hunger. . . . You want to pray to 
God, to spend your day in His house; but you 
think it would be more useful to work for some poor 
people you know, who are in dreadful distress ; 
such an action indeed would please God more 



PILGRIMAGE. VOCATIONS, WORKS 143 

than if your entire day had been passed at the foot 
of the Tabernacle.^ 

In his direction he manifested the same good 
sense. With a marvellous intuitive discernment of 
character, he counselled marriage to one, a religious 
life to another ; and, seeing their situation more 
clearly than they saw it themselves, he dissuaded 
many from pledging themselves to follow a mis- 
taken vocation, which they had expected him to 
urge them to pursue. 

The history of Mademoiselle A. C. ... is signifi- 
cative. She felt herself drawn to the religious life 
by an irresistible attraction. After having cherished 
the desire for a long time in secret, she opened her 
heart to her parents, and asked for their permission 
to enter the Order of the Visitandines. Their 
answer was a positive refusal. Her father, a great 
master-builder in a town in the south, represented 
to her that he could not do without her assistance. 
Who would henceforth keep the books ? Who 
would make the estimates, and draw up the plans ? 
Mile. C, who was remarkably intelligent, was in 
fact invaluable to him. 

A gentleman, M. R. M. . . . made her a proposal 
of marriage, and her father and mother vainly 
pressed her to accept him. But she persistently 
refused ; there was therefore a long conflict between 
her and them, which seemed as if it would never 
end, until one day she said to her father, " If you 
will let me go and see the Cure d'Ars, I promise to 
do what he counsels." Her father gave his consent, 
' Esprit du Cure d'Ars, a Catechism on the Cardinal Virtues. 



144 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

and she set out for Ars. It was in the year 
1858. 

Being received by M. Vianney with the greatest 
kindness, she explained to him as best she could how 
strong was the attraction she felt towards a religious 
life ; and made known to him the promise she had 
given her father. The old man reflected an instant, 
then in a very decided tone said, " My child, you must 
marry." — " But, my father — " she began quite non- 
plussed. " Marry," continued M. Vianney without 
allowing her to finish, " and thus give peace to your 
family, and show the world the reality of your piety." 

Mile. C. A. C. had given her word to submit to 
the decision of the Cur^ d'Ars, and she kept it. 
She went to Fourvieres to ask Our Lady to bless the 
life upon which she was about to enter, returned to 
her father's house, and married the young man 
whom he wished her to accept. 

As M. Vianney persuaded many young girls, 
desirous of quitting the world, to remain in it, so did 
he in like manner retain at their parochial work 
many of the clergy, who believed themselves called 
to another apostolate. 

A priest, whom he dissuaded from joining the 
Dominicans, has thus recounted to the Abbe Monnin 
the conversation that he had with him : — 

" Monsieur le Cure, I wish, in going from here, to 
make a Retreat at the novitiate of Flavigny." 

" Yes, my friend, you do well. Oh ! if I could only 
follow you there 1 " 

" Supposing God were to tell me to remain there 
and take the habit of St Dominic." 



PILGRIMAGE. VOCATIONS, WORKS 145 

" No, my friend ; that is an alien desire. Remain 
where you are." 

" Do you not think Our Lord will require from 
me an account of a good desire, which may proceed 
from Him, and which I shall have stifled ?" 

" No," was the resolute answer of M. Vianney ; 
" you are where God wills you to be. In remaining 
there, you will always find more good to be done 
than you will accomplish." 

" Monsieur le Cure, give me your benediction in 
order that I may always know and do the will of 
Our Lord." 

" May that benediction, my friend, both urge and 
restrain you ! " 

Subsequent events, more than once, revealed how 
rash people were in not following the prudent advice 
of M. Vianney. 

An example of this may be found in an episode, 
related by the Reverend Father, Abbot of the 
Monastery of Aiguebelle to the present Cure d'Ars, 
in a letter, dated May 21st 1901, which abounds in 
details concerning his predecessor. I quote from 
the text : — 

" Do not go to La Trappe," said M. Vianney to a 
young man, whose name we will not mention. " But, 
father, I am quite certain ; my best inspirations lead 
me thither; I thirst for mortifications and austerities." 
" My child," replied M. Vianney, " do not go there." 

" The young man went home, prayed and reflected 
once more, and persuading himself that he saw more 
clearly than the servant of God, went some time 
afterwards to Aiguebelle. He was accepted and 



146 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

began his novitiate. All the observances of the Rule 
were easy to him, and he proved himself to be such 
a model of regularity, obedience and piety, that Dom 
Gabriel and the Reverend Pere Bruno, who has 
since died at the Monastery of Dombes, had no 
hesitation in saying : " This time M. Vianney has 
been mistaken." 

But shortly before his Profession, to the great 
surprise of all the Religious, he suddenly abandoned 
the monk's frock, and has never been heard of since. 
"Thus," concluded the Reverend Abbot of Aiguebelle, 
" the unerring insight of the venerable Cure d'Ars is 
again verified." 

But, whilst retaining on the shore any who took 
their distaste for daily duties as the sign of a 
religious vocation, he boldly sent forth, as fishers 
of men, all those who had a veritable vocation. 
Some heard the first call of grace from his lips ; 
others received from him increase of light and 
courage ; others saw the obstacles that their families 
had raised to their vocations give way before him ; 
and others, who had already taken the vows, but 
were passing through a crisis of discouragement, 
recovered, through his ardent exhortations, all the 
fervour of their first love. 

The young Lasserre, a student of philosophy at 
the petit Seminaire of Rondeau (Grenoble), wished to 
become a missionary. " Go to the Capuchins," said 
M. Vianney, without the slightest hesitation. •• Are 
you sure that it is the will of God ? " objected the 
young man, to whom the Order had already been 
recommended, but who was prejudiced against it. 



PILGRIMAGE. VOCATIONS, WORKS 147 

" Yes, I assure you it is." Lasserre therefore entered 
the novitiate of the Minor Friars, and was sent to 
the Mission at Aden, where he afterwards became a 
bishop. 

Nicolas Monnet of Lyons had thoughts of la 
Trappe ; but the austerities of the Rule alarmed 
him. " Have not those in la Trappe flesh and bones 
like you ? " asked M. Vianney ; and he soon inspired 
the young man with such courage that all his 
apprehensions vanished, and he entered la Trappe 
at Aiguebelle, under the name of Brother 
Hildebrand. 

Clemence Joly, who had become Sister Alexine, 
was appointed an Auxiliary at the School at 
Miserieux. But she fell into despondency, had 
doubts about her vocation, and thought of quitting 
the cloister. One day, when she was praying at the 
far end of the church, M. Vianney went straight up 
to her, and inspired her with strength and consolation 
for the rest of her life. 

Young E. G. . . ., in the department of the 
Ardeche, wished to be a Jesuit ; but his father not 
being able to reconcile himself to the idea, he made 
up his mind to prove to him that, if he thought of 
leaving the world, it was not because of his incapacity 
to shine in it : he therefore presented himself at 
St Cyr, and was accepted. Then, as he talked of 
leaving, his father suddenly asked him one day, 
" Will you abide by the decision of the Cur6 
d'Ars ? " 

" Willingly." 

" Then shall I go with you to him ? " 



148 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

" Whenever you wish." It was at the end of 
September 1856 that the father and son went to 
Ars. They were present at the catechising. M. 
Vianney began by speaking about the duties of 
servants to their masters. But soon, without any 
transition, he abandoned his subject and related the 
vocations of St Bernard, St Louis de Gonzague, 
and Mme. Louise de France. 

" It is not necessary to go and see him," said M. 
G. ... as they went out. " I know quite well what 
he will tell me." They went however, the son to 
receive encouragement, and the father such consola- 
tion as enabled him generously to accept the 
vocation that caused him such grief. 

Felix Brise of Coublanc (Saone et Loire) went to 
Ars on September 8th 1854, to celebrate the Nativity 
of the Blessed Virgin. Whilst M. Vianney made his 
way through the dense, thronging crowd, which beset 
his path, he noticed the young man, and went 
directly towards him. Felix at once avowed he 
thought he had a call to la Trappe. " Yes, my 
child," replied the holy cure, " yes, go, and God will 
bless you." But on reaching home, the pilgrim felt 
his courage vanishing away. He waited a year and 
then returned to Ars. After that he waited another 
year ; and thinking it would not matter which Order 
he entered so long as he became a Religious, he 
joined that of the Petits Fr^res de Marie, at the end 
of 1856. But he found no happiness there: he 
remained six years, dissatisfied and troubled, being 
unwilling to understand that one can only be happy 
in following one's vocation. He acknowledged this, 



PILGRIMAGE. VOCATIONS, WORKS 149 

when he at last submitted to the Rule, whose 
austerities had seemed so alarming, though they were 
really, as M. Vianney had seen, exactly suited to him. 
In 1863 he entered la Trappe des Dombes, and 
became its first postulant. Out of gratitude to the 
Cur6 d'Ars, who had urged him to follow his true 
vocation, and also because the Founders of the new 
monastery had confided their House to his prayers, 
he took the name of Frere Philomena. 

If these histories did not lose nearly all their 
interest by being thus reduced to a dry epitome, 
for want of space to develop them, we would add 
other names to this short list. But, even if we made 
it a long one, it would after all give but an inade- 
quate idea of the number of persons, who were 
either awakened to their vocation, or confirmed in 
it, through the instrumentality of the Cure d'Ars. I 
do not think one can mention a single grand Simi- 
naire or Institute in France, to which he did not 
send recruits. Few Founders of Orders have pro- 
vided the Church with so many ministers and 
servants as this petit cure de campagne. 

And what great works he gave to it ! How many 
charitable projects were conceived by his personal 
inspiration I And how many, that had their origin 
elsewhere, received through his counsel and en- 
couragement the stimulus that made them productive 
of good. A word from him was all-powerful in 
smoothing difficulties and multiplying resources. 
At his call infant schools were opened and convents 
sprang, as it were, from the ground. He covered 
the Lyonese District with Orphanages. He was 



150 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

even consulted on literary and artistic subjects. 
For talent came now and then, as charity did every 
day, to submit its conceptions to him. Ernest Hello, 
a celebrated writer, consulted him on his first works 
in defence of the Faith. And long before the people 
of the Lyonnais vowed, in the hour of national peril, 
to provide for their guardian saint a House more 
worthy of her than the insignificant chapel that 
bore her name, the architect Bossan showed to the 
Cure d'Ars his plans for the beautiful church, with 
which it was his dream to crown the ancient hill 
of Fourvieres. He was promised that this dream 
would be realised; and his designs obtained 
enthusiastic approval.^ 

The works founded with the co-operation of the 
Cure d'Ars had the same stability as the vocations 
he blessed, having been like them submitted to the 
test of his sound common sense. In fact, in the 
innumerable projects presented for his judgment, he 
saw both the good and the evil with lightning-like 
rapidity. Rejecting all that was futile or rash, 
amending unskilful blunders, and postponing that 
which needed time for ripening, he gave his entire 
approval to all Foundations conceived by enlightened 
zeal, warning their Founders of the disappointments 
inseparable from every beginning, and making them 
hope against hope. 

The story of one of these works must be related 
here since it owed its birth to the Cure d'Ars. It is 

^ In the new basilica of Fourvieres a picture of the Cure 
d'Ars is most appropriately painted — on the window dedicated to 
Confessors. 



PILGRIMAGE. VOCATIONS, WORKS 151 

one of the most popular bequeathed to us by the 
last century: the Society of the Dames Auxiliatrices 
du Purgatoire, nurses of the poor, 

Eugenie Smet, born March 25th 1825, lived with 
her family at Loos, near Lille. From childhood 
she had shown profound pity for the souls in 
Purgatory, and fihal confidence in God. 

On All Souls' Day, November 2nd 1853, after 
making her Communion, she was suddenly struck 
with this thought: there are Communities for 
every need of the Church Militant, but there is not 
a single one entirely devoted to the Church Suffer- 
ing, by means of works of zeal and charity. And 
immediately it seemed to her that she was called to 
supply this need. 

But her project did not meet with much en- 
couragement at first. The Cure of Loos, who had 
all her confidence, made a formal objection to it. 
According to him, the success of the works to 
which she devoted herself in the world proved that 
God did not demand anything else of her. Mgr. 
Challandon, Bishop of Belley, whom she had known 
during a Retreat, made at the Sacre-Coeur at Lille, 
was of the same opinion. " Your idea of an Order, 
that shall have the redemption of souls (even as 
the Order of Mercy has the redemption of captives) 
as its sole object and end, has something new in it, 
very pleasing to piety. The realisation of this pro- 
ject would be a great undertaking, unless God were 
to pour floods of His light into your soul. I believe 
M. le Cure de Loos has done quite right to dissuade 
you from being the Foundress of this new Order, 



152 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

until there is no more good to be done in your 
immediate neighbourhood." 

The supernatural light invoked by the Bishop of 
Belley was not poured forth on Mile. Smet until 
after two years of expectant hope ; but it was poured 
" in floods " as he had demanded it should be. The 
light reached Loos from a little parish he had reason 
to know, since it had become the most famous in 
his diocese. 

In July 1855 Mile. Smet had a sudden inspiration 
to have recourse to the Cure d'Ars, whose fame had 
reached her a few weeks before. She was just 
wondering how she should enter into communication 
with him, when one of her friends, Mile. Henriette 
W. . . . came and announced that she was setting 
out with her father on a pilgrimage to Ars. There- 
upon Mile. Smet revealed her project, and begged 
her friend to solicit the Cure d'Ars for an exact 
reply to the question : Ought she to undertake the 
foundation of a Community consecrated to the Souls 
in Purgatory, in spite of the difficulties, which 
seemed to oppose it ? The reply soon arrived. It 
was brief, but decidedly favourable. M. Vianney 
had said : " When she wishes she will establish an 
Order for the Souls in Purgatory." Mile. Smet 
communicated this reply to Mgr. Chalandon. " My 
child," he replied, " M. le Cur6 d'Ars is a saint, in 
whose prayers I have perfect confidence. ... If you 
desire to obtain more light from him, you can write 
to M. Toccanier, vicaire of Ars, in my name and ask 
him to reply to you." 

At the end of October Mile. Smet entreated M. 



PILGRIMAGE. VOCATIONS, WORKS 153 

Vianney, through the medium of M. Toccanier, to 
meditate upon her project on All Souls' Day. On 
the 11th of November the latter replied, "I sub- 
mitted your request to my holy cure. . . . You can 
rest assured of two things : he approves of your 
vocation to the Religious Life, and the foundation 
of this new^ Order, which, according to him, will have 
a rapid development." 

Mile. Smet had no more doubts: she felt quite 
possessed by the joy of certainty found after long 
search. But soon the fear of the unknown, and the 
thought of leaving her mother, tortured her. She 
again appealed to the Cure d'Ars, and received the 
following reply from M. Toccanier : •* I ventured to 
point out to him the difficulties you experience in a 
separation, painful enough to your own heart, but 
infinitely more so to your family. To my great 
astonishment he, who usually counsels young persons 
not to act in opposition to their parents, but to wait 
patiently for their consent, did not hesitate an 
instant with regard to you. He says, ' The tears, 
that natural tenderness will cause to flow, will be 
dried ere long ! ' and he encourages you to put your 
resolve into execution, saying to God : ' Behold Thy 
servant, do with me as Thou wilt. . . .' He prays 
for you. I will unite with him to ask that, in this 
terrible struggle between nature and the grace 
existing in your heart, grace may be always 
victor." 

Before this letter reached Loos, Mme. Smet had 
given her consent, and the good news was at once 
communicated to the Cure d'Ars. " God acts 



154 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

vigorously and gently : it is good to rely on Him," 
was his answer. 

On Jan. 19th 1856, Mile. Smet was in Paris; and 
on the 22nd Mgr. Sibour approved of the new Order. 
But innumerable trials beset the path of the 
Foundress ; money was lacking, recruits did not 
rally round her ; and, to crown all, she was attacked 
by an excruciatingly painful malady. It was to Ars 
that she appealed for sympathy; and from Ars 
she received the energetic cordial reserved for 
valiant souls. " M. le Cure says," wrote the Abbe 
Toccanier, '' that your crosses are blossoms, which 
will soon bring forth fruit." And in another letter 
" M. le Cure says, ' God wills you to endure these 
sufferings that, through them, you may obtain 
abundant grace, both for yourself and your work.' " 
At the same time the Cure d'Ars sent the following 
counsel, in which his habitual prudence may be 
recognised : " Concerning the Novitiate, few to 
begin with, but those few of the first quality, of the 
best grain." 

On July 1st Mile. Smet left the temporary abode, 
which had sheltered her little Society till then, and 
removed to a house in the rue de la Barouillere, 
which became the cradle of the new Order. It 
was decided that the Sisters should consecrate 
themselves to works of charity ; but they were in 
doubt as to which they ought to choose. Two days 
after their instalment, an unknown person came and 
asked the new-comers if one of them would go and 
visit a poor, sick man in that district. The Foundress, 
who had taken the name of Mere Marie de la 



PILGRIMAGE. VOCATIONS, WORKS 155 

Providence, saw in this incident an answer from 
God to the question she was asking herself; and 
decided that the Helpers of the Holy Souls should 
also be nurses of the sick. The Cure d'Ars, on 
being consulted, approved with all his heart, saying : 
" It is God who has inspired you to work for the 
deliverance of Souls in Purgatory by the practice of 
Works of Mercy, as a means to that end. You will 
thus realise the Spirit of our Saviour in all its 
plenitude, by solacing His suffering members upon 
earth, and those in Purgatory, at one and the same 
time." 

The work of the visitation of the sick was rapidly 
extended, and soon transformed the Helpers into 
so many Apostles ; for, almost everywhere they 
penetrated, faith and morality followed in their 
train. Whilst healing the wounds of the body, 
they quickly detected those of the soul, and caused 
parents to marry, children to be baptised, adults to 
make their first Communion, and the dying to confess. 
In this poor neighbourhood, where the people would 
have repulsed any other kind of preaching, J:he 
living sermon of the devoted lives in their midst was 
not to be resisted. 

Trials, however, were by no means spared them ; 
though consolation always came to them from Ars. 
In January 1857, after the tragic death of Mgr. 
Sibour, which deprived them of a loved protector, 
and rendered their future uncertain, they received 
this encouragement. " Since you are the children 
of Providence, it is necessary that this should be 
apparent to all eyes. A House, which is founded 



156 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

on the Cross, does not fear the storm : its founda- 
tion is divine. It is essential that souls in Purgatory 
should be able to say of their Helpers : " We have 
advocates upon earth, who not only know how to 
pray, but how to sympathise, because they know 
what it is to suffer." 

On New Year's day, 1859, the Abbe Toccanier 
visited the little Community. When he returned 
to Ars, he wrote to Mere Marie de la Providence : 
" I have spoken to the good father at Ars of his 
spiritual family in Paris. I spoke at great length, 
and in detail. . . . Ah I how many tears of sacred 
emotion he shed, whilst listening to my recital of the 
touching facts you related. His admiration for the 
wonderful dealings of Providence with your Society 
is unbounded. . . . And when I said to him : ' M. le 
Cure, it is possible that the mother of that little 
family may come to see you,' he replied : * Oh 1 so 
much the better! I should like a visit from her much 
more than a visit from a queen. It does one good 
to see beautiful souls. And her work is so evidently 
the work of God.' " 

The promised visit was never made ; for on August 
4th of that same year, the Cure d'Ars was taken 
away from the spiritual daughters, who loved him so 
well. 

We have not space to continue the history of that 
family which he had adopted ; suffice it to say, it 
prospered, as he had promised it would. The 
pliancy of its Rule allowing it to graft one charit- 
able work on another, and to answer to the most 
diverse needs. It has founded several houses in 



PILGRIMAGE. VOCATIONS, WORKS 157 

Paris, and established itself in many towns in France, 
Belgium, Italy, Austria, England, and in North and 
South America. M^re Marie de la Providence, who 
only survived the Cure d'Ars eleven years, had time 
to send a colony to Nantes, another to Brussels, and 
a third to China to the Kiang-Nan Mission. 

The memory of her spiritual Father sustained her 
even to the end, through all the tortures of her 
dreadful agony. The incurable complaint from 
which she suffered at last compelled her to remain 
in bed. This was in August 1870, and from that 
time she felt life ebbing slowly, with the blood which 
issued from an open wound. Her Director, Pere 
Olivaint, continued the instructions on the good uses 
of suffering given her by the Cure d'Ars, and 
stimulated her as the latter had so often done, 
during the last three years of his life, to bear her 
heavy cross. It even seemed as if the virile spirit, 
and the quaint familiar language of the Blessed 
Jean Vianney inspired him, when he cheered her 
with words like these, '• Come, come ! I will not 
allow any one to die frowning." 

On January 9th, the end seeming near. Mere 
Marie de la Providence received the last Sacraments. 
Pere Olivaint administered them, clothed in a 
surplice — the gift of the Abbe Toccanier — which had 
belonged to the Cure d'Ars. At times, the whizzing 
of the shells which, since the evening before, had 
been falling in Paris, drowned the voice of the 
priest, and spoke still more forcibly of death. 

The agony was prolonged for a month, during 
which neither her sufferings nor her fortitude was 



158 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

diminished. And the ceaseless roaring of the 
cannon, whilst warning the Helper of those in 
Purgatory, that a great number of souls were 
passing into eternity, eloquently preached of the 
necessity to offer up her torture for their redemp- 
tion. In the end her lips could no longer breathe 
forth prayers. As her sensibility to suffering 
remained the same, she took the rosary of the 
Cure d'Ars, which she called her chloroform, and 
on each bead repeated : " Fiat Jesus." 

On February 7th, the fete in commemoration of 
Christ's agony in the garden, she passed away. 
And thus ended this beautiful life which would have 
been less full of charitable works if the Cure d'Ars 
had not directed it at a critical moment. Her bio- 
graphy has already been written ; and perhaps will 
one day be included in this series. Perhaps also 
the Annals of the Saints will hereafter have the names 
of Jean-Marie Vianney and Eugenie Smet associated 
together, as they have those of Saint Francois de 
Sales and Sainte Jeanne de Chantal, and those of 
Saint Fran9ois d'Assise and Sainte Claire. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE PILGRIMAGE. THE SIGNS OF THE SAINt's MISSION 

\A/E see in the Gospel how often Jesus treats the 
cure of the body as an image of the healing of 
the soul. Therefore, it is by no means surprising 
that those saints who were specially raised up to 
convert sinners to the life of grace, should generally 
receive as sign of their mission the power of restor- 
ing the sick to health. As regards this extraordinary 
gift, the Cure d'Ars was no exception. 

We will not let all the unfortunates whom he 
cured pass before our reader's eyes ; this procession 
would but resemble that which one sees in the life 
of any thaumaturgus. Besides, we should be asked 
for proofs, and it is impossible in such a brief 
volume as ours to quote or discuss all the various 
testimonies. Suffice it to say that many such 
persons have gone to Ars, and, on returning home, 
relieved if not cured, have obtained certificates more 
or less similar to that given by Dr Oilier, the 
celebrated surgeon, to Mademoiselle M. ... on 
January 9th 1857: "I was beginning to despair of 
her recovery, and thought she had an incurable chest 
affection, when, after one journey, I saw Mile. M. 
perfectly cured. I own that I cannot find any 
natural explanation of this cure." 

»59 



160 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

But it was the holy man's perfect humiHty which 
was the most interesting point in the cures which 
took place at Ars. 

He always referred the sick to St Philomena, 
telling them to make a Novena in her honour, and 
though he might pray with and bless them, some- 
times even laying his hands on them, yet he always 
gave the honour of their recovery to the little saint. 
It was to her alone, after God, they owed any 
gratitude. He would not allow them to recognise 
any miraculous power in him ; and fearing lest, in 
spite of all he could say, public opinion would 
attribute it to him, he was scrupulously silent on the 
graces obtained through his prayers. 

If sometimes he did own that surprising cures had 
taken place under his eyes, it was only when he 
perceived that God's sovereign power was being 
called in question. One day, in July 1842, one of 
his colleagues was telling him of the discussion 
provoked by the case of some sick person : " My 
friend," he replied, " let people of the world talk as 
they like. Alas! how should they see; they are 
blind. If to-day our Lord were to perform all the 
miracles which He did in Judea, they would not 
believe in them. He, to Whom all power has been 
given has not yet lost it. For instance, last week 
a poor vine -dresser from the other side of the 
water ^ brought his little boy of twelve across on 
his shoulders. The child was lame with both legs, 
and had never walked. This good man made a 
Novena to St Philomena, and his little boy was 
^ That is to say from the opposite bank of the Saone, 



THE PILGRIMAGE 161 

cured on the ninth day, and went off running and 
jumping before him.^ As of old, when our Lord 
healed the lame, cured the sick, and raised the dead, 
there were people standing by who saw the marvels, 
but who yet did not believe. My friend, men are 
always and everywhere the same." 

Thus it was that in order to defend the rights of 
God the holy man would at times spontaneously 
relate what extraordinary things used to take place 
at Ars. But, when this Almighty Power was not 
called in question, he strove to maintain the most 
complete silence on the favours which the pilgrims 
received through him, and was even annoyed at any 
expression of gratitude. 

Towards the close of his life he was so much 
embarrassed by the chorus of thanksgiving evoked 
by the efficacity of his prayers, that he implored St 
Philomena to spare him this torture. His request 
was granted and the cures became rare at Ars. At 
first, people were astonished, but when it became 
known that the sick had been healed after their 
return to their own homes, they then understood 
that the holy Cur^ had implored heaven to spare his 
humility. The Abbe Toccanier, desiring to be 
satisfied on this point, one day said to hixn : 

* Among the sick cured by the intercession of the Cure d'Ars 
both in his life-time and after his death, we may enumerate many 
children. Two of these cures were examined by the Congregation 
of Rites during the process of Beatification, and one of these, a 
little girl, was received into an orphanage. It seems as if the 
power of restoring life to sick children was granted to the Cur6 
d'Ars in reward for all he had done for so many neglected little 
ones. 



162 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURfe D'ARS 

" Monsieur le Cure, do you know what report is 
spread about you ? They say that you have for- 
bidden St Philomena to work any more miracles." 
'* That is true, my dear friend," he naively answered, 
"all that caused too much talk and brought too 
many people here, i told her to convert their souls, 
but to heal their bodies after they had gone away. 
She has obeyed me ; many persons have begun their 
Novenas here and have been cured at home, unseen, 
unknown." 

For the one ambition of the good cur6 was to 
heal souls. In his eyes, the cure of the body was 
of much less importance, and was but a sign and an 
accessory of his mission. We leave it, then, to other 
biographers to speak at greater length of the cures 
obtained at Ars. To dwell on them longer, would 
be to give an idea that the Blessed Cure d'Ars, like 
many other saints, was raised up to relieve bodily 
ills, and this would give a very incorrect impression 
of his role. 

Almost as numerous as the sick and infirm were 
the crowds of persons sorely wounded in the battle 
of life who repaired to Ars to be healed. Having 
heard that M. Vianney possessed a marvellous gift 
of consolation, they confided to him all their sad 
secrets. They told him of their reverses of fortune, 
their family troubles, their blighted hopes, their 
vanished illusions, and they wept before him over 
their wasted lives. At the first words of their 
recital they saw him clasp his hands and raise 
supplicating glances to heaven, then he would turn 
on them a look so full of sympathy that hope revived. 



THE PILGRIMAGE 163 

After this they would hear tender yet firm coun- 
sel, always wonderfully appropriate to their needs. 
In some cases, they learnt to recognise the true 
cause of their misfortunes in the faults of their 
character, and having discovered the root of the evil, 
they understood the remedy. They were exhorted to 
seek for consolation in faith, and after kneeling before 
him, they went away comforted and strengthened. 

He did not listen coldly to any tale of distress, 
but showed especial compassion for two classes of 
sufferers. First, for those whose lives had been 
entirely changed through the death of their nearest 
relatives ; such as orphans left quite unprovided 
for, or mothers who, having lost their children, had 
no longer any desire to live. And secondly, for 
those who, good Christians themselves, had yet the 
grief of seeing a friend or relative die suddenly 
without confession, in circumstances which appeared 
to make salvation doubtful. 

To the former, he would suggest fresh reasons for 
bearing life's burden. To the latter, he would gently 
explain, as if he himself had never feared God's 
judgments, the infinite abyss of Divine pity. 

Sometimes, too, after having prayed, he gave them 
quite precise answers, which proved that in some 
mysterious way, he had been warned as to the fate 
of their lost ones : " Your husband or your friend," 
he would say, " is saved ; but let us pray earnestly 
for his deliverance." 

Besides receiving special light concerning spiritual 
things, he had also intuitions regarding the future, and 
one may say that if, during his life-time, his en- 



164 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

counters with the demon made such a stir, so, 
after his death, nothing was more discussed than 
his predictions. More than one prophecy has been 
falsely attributed to him. Even to-day, no event of 
any importance takes place in the Church, with- 
out someone finding some hint of it in certain 
words of his, not understanding that one thereby 
compromises his memory, in thus lightly retailing 
remarks whose origin is most doubtful. 

His predictions usually referred to private indi- 
viduals, rather than to public events. He announced 
to several their approaching end, and it was almost 
always to newly-converted sinners, who needed to 
be kept from backsliding by the thought of imminent 
death, or else to devout souls, whose fervour was 
redoubled by the expectation of their heavenly joy. 
He warned others that one of their relatives, a father, 
mother or sister would soon be taken from them. 
He advised some to defer entering religion till a 
certain date fixed by himself, when the obstacles 
which had hindered their vocation were removed. 
Again, he foresaw the creation of such an Order or 
the dispersion of such a Community ; thus he pre- 
vented a young girl from entering a convent which, 
according to him, would be shut in a year, and in fact 
this convent was closed on account of the troubles 
in 1848. Therefore, it was especially when it 
was a question of the salvation of a soul, or of 
giving it a surer direction, that the veil of the 
future was more or less lifted for the Cur^ 
d'Ars. The greater part of his predictions related 
expressly to his providential mission — that is, to 



THE PILGRIMAGE 165 

the conversion of sinners, and the guidance of 
souls. 

When it is known that he could see into the future, 
one is not astonished that he also saw material 
objects, very distant from him, but connected with 
persons, then in his presence. This faculty of 
second-sight is in fact much less extraordinary than 
the gift of prophecy. No one can fail to recognise 
that it is often met with in the lives of those 
in whom one would never expect to find anything 
supernatural. 

In the saints it is a sign of sanctity, not so much 
in itself, as on account of the manner 4n which it is 
closely allied to their virtues and mission. 

That which interests us as regards our hero, is not 
simply that he had the gift of clairvoyance, but that 
he never exercised it except when it was a question 
of rendering some service, or warning a sinner of his 
faults. To give some instances of the first case : a 
comrade of Antoine Saubin's, whose conversion we 
have previously related, came to Ars by the advice of 
his friend. M. Vianney perceiving him in the crowd, 
said to him, " Go back quickly to Lyons, your house 
is on fire." This was true. The next year, the 
pilgrim returned to Ars and was converted. On 
another occasion, M. Vianney, after hearing a 
country-woman's confession, sent her away at once, 
saying there was a serpent in her house. She 
went home, looked in vain in every corner of the 
house, and at last thought of shaking the mattress 
that had been put out in the sun to dry. She then 
saw a large snake, which, had it not been for M. 



166 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

Vianney's warning, would perhaps have bitten her 
in her sleep. 

Another day, the Cure d'Ars perceiving in 
the church porch, a young girl who had com- 
menced a retreat, warned her to go home, where they 
were expecting her, without delay. She at once set 
out, and found that just before M. Vianney had 
spoken to her, a sister, whom she had left in perfect 
health, had died. 

To give another instance ; a woman who was just 
going to confession at Ars consulted a sorcerer, for 
some malady or other, on the way. The man gave 
her a bottle containing pretended charms, which she 
hid in a bush before entering the village. When M. 
Vianney had heard her confession, he said to her, 
" You have told me nothing about the bottle you left 
under the hedge." He then explained to her that 
the Catholic religion condemned all such superstitions, 
and made her promise never again to consult any 
sorcerer. In this case it was apostolic zeal which 
gave the cure insight ; in others it was charity, and 
it is above all remarkable that this gift of clairvoy- 
ance was only used by him for good, and for that 
special form of good, which it was his destiny to 
achieve. 

An intuitive perception of the thoughts of others 
amounting to insight was much more frequently 
exercised in the apostolate of the Cure d'Ars, than 
clairvoyance. Nay, it was so habitual to him, so 
intimately and inseparably associated with his 
mission, that I could not enter into details about 
it here, without having to re-write the preceding 



THE PILGRIMAGE 167 

chapters, especially that one on the conversions. 
So, at the risk of repeating myself, I will say that 
almost every day, in passing before the persons 
grouped round his confessional, the Cure d'Ars 
divined those who most urgently needed his minis- 
trations, either because they had not time to wait, 
or because they were particularly unhappy, and 
made a sign to them to enter first, nobody being 
astonished at this preference. He likewise detected 
those who were unwilling to confess, went into the 
church, took them by the hand, and led them to the 
Sacristy. More than one penitent, after having 
finished his confession, heard the confessor say to 
him, " Why did you not confess such and such a 
fault ? " 

It is related that several persons tried to put this 
penetration to the proof, and were confounded. One 
young man who feigned deep repentance was, the very 
moment he knelt down, dismissed by the Cure d'Ars 
with the curt remark, " My friend, I have not time 
to hear you." The next day, ashamed of having 
been found out, and this time really contrite, the 
young man again presented himself, and was re- 
ceived with an affectionate embrace. Another 
penitent having made a false confession, the cur^, 
who had listened to him without a word or remark, 
said as he ended, " You are indeed a great sinner : 
but the sin you have committed is not what you have 
just told me; it is so and so." The impostor, over- 
whelmed by this revelation of his sin, was converted. 

Pure souls as well as sinners, and souls in anxiety 
about their destiny were recognized in like manner. 



168 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

Many persons who came to consult M. Vianney 
had scarcely begun their explanations, when he 
interrupted them saying : " I see what you want," 
and forthwith gave his advice, implying a com- 
plete understanding of the situation. Others re- 
ceived the answers they desired, even before they 
had put their questions. Whilst traversing the 
crowded market-place after he had left the church, 
he sometimes went straight to one person, and 
began spontaneously to converse with him, on the 
very subject which had brought him to Ars. 

Many perfectly authentic instances of this in- 
tuition are well known ; and others are continually 
cited. But if there were perhaps some cases, in 
which the Cure d'Ars might have been enlightened 
as to the sentiments of his penitents by their attitude 
and physiognomy, or others in which his extensive 
knowledge of the human heart led him to divine 
what remained to be told, from what they had 
already said, the immense majority of cases cannot 
be considered otherwise than as phenomena of 
insight. I do not deny that phenomena having a 
resemblance to these, are met with in persons who 
are not saints, but I must at once add with the 
author of the Psychology of the Saints,^ that in saints, 
clairvoyance always answers some useful purpose, 
" that it cannot be disassociated from the sanctity 
which precedes and follows it, and which gives it all 
its significance"; that there is "a connection between 
this marvellous gift and the entire life of its possessor, 
his intimate friendships, his Mission in the Church, 
^ H. Joly, Tkg Psychology of the Saints, p. 80. 



THE PILGRIMAGE 169 

and the cares of his Apostolate " ; and that finally, 
" the extraordinary phenomena recorded count as a 
manifestation and result of sanctity." And the ex- 
ample of the Cure d'Ars is a special proof of this. 
Indeed one does not find a single case, in which his 
penetration was applied to ordinary or even to 
singular events. It never had any other object 
than the sanctification of souls ; it was never called 
forth except by zeal and charity. This is the 
essential point, for it shows that the Cure d'Ars 
was a man entirely penetrated by the Divine 

Spirit. 

♦ ♦ * 

No one could have a correct idea of the immense 
influence exercised by the Cure d'Ars, without 
knowing that it was extended to a great number of 
persons, who never made a pilgrimage to Ars. He 
cured, consoled, counselled, and converted from a dis- 
tance those who, being unable to come so far, either 
wrote to him themselves, or deputed others to explain 
their case to him. We saw in the preceding chapter, 
that he helped to found the Societyof the Dames Auxi- 
liatrices du Purgatoire (or Helpers of the Holy Souls) 
without having had a visit from the Foundress ; but 
that he directed her, first through the medium of one 
of her friends, and afterwards by correspondence. 

Every day, when he took his mid-day meal, he 
found a heap of letters on his table. They came 
from all quarters and were written in every imagin- 
able style. As he had not time to read all, he burnt 
those which began with compliments, without even 
glancing at them, and rapidly ran through the others. 



170 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

After his death, a considerable number were found 
in his room, very few, however, when compared with 
those he had received. 

Some of the writers asked to be enlightened about 
their vocation, character or faults, others entered into 
particulars concerning their capacities or their past 
history ; others again limited themselves to cursory 
information, trusting to the marvellous penetration 
of their Director. If comparatively few letters of 
this kind have been found, it is because the Cur^ 
d'Ars destroyed confidential ones as soon as he had 
read them. 

Many told of illnesses, infirmities, family griefs, 
and heart-rending misfortunes, and asked for cure or 
consolation. Many also solicited prayers for the 
conversion of a soul, or a family. Some of these 
are very touching, such as the one in which Lord 
Howard, through a friend, asked the Cure d'Ars to 
pray for the conversion of his father, the Duke of 
Norfolk. In other letters, bishops and priests begged 
him to obtain from God the regeneration of their 
diocese or parish ; and charitable works of all kinds 
were recommended to him. 

He scarcely ever replied himself, since he had not 
a moment to spare ; but answered, when he deemed 
it necessary, through his collaborators. Letters 
which asked for prayers rather than advice, were 
almost always unanswered. But they were by no 
means without effect, and were often followed by 
others in which the writers expressed, with more 
or less exuberance, their gratitude for favours 
obtained. They said that, from the day on which 



THE PILGRIMAGE 171 

they had asked the Cure d'Ars to pray for them, the 
illness of the invalid had abated, the eyes of the 
sinner had begun to be opened, or the success of 
the work had been decided. When one thinks of 
the thanksgivings, that so many different corres- 
pondents charged him to offer to God in their names, 
for answering the petitions proffered through him, 
it is not difficult to understand why the renown of 
M. Vianney had penetrated to regions so remote 
from Ars, nor why the little village had become one 
of the principal centres from which Christian life in 
France received light and vigour during the nine- 
teenth century. 



CHAPTER X 

THE INNER LIFE OF THE BLESSED CURE d'aRS AT THE 
TIME OF THE PILGRIMAGE 

IT is natural to wonder on reading the description 
of M. Vianney's days, so full of pressing duties, 
how he contrived to commune with his own heart 
in the tumult of a crowded throng, and think a little 
of himself, whilst never ceasing to be occupied with 
others. But where there is a will there is a way. 
It was when the Cure d'Ars had no longer, as it 
seemed, a moment's leisure, that he cultivated 
his soul the most carefully. It was then that, his 
virtues having freely and vigorously expanded, he 
became a wonderful model of charity, urbanity, 
self-sacrifice, humility, and piety; and his interior 
life was never more intense, than when the exterior 
one was overcharged with absorbing work. 

He no longer had anything he could call his own, 
not even the straw of his bed; for he had sold 
his furniture and all he possessed, to persons 
who allowed him the use of it during his life. But 
the more he despoiled himself, the more he had to 
give away; money flowed into his hands from all 
sides, charitable persons knowing it would be im- 
mediately employed for useful Foundations. Visitors 
gave it him, letters contained it, and he often found 



THE INNER LIFE 173 

large sums in his drawers without having the least 
idea how they came there. Whenever a fresh 
emergency arose he at once betook himself to prayer, 
" quite wearying his good consuls " as he called his 
saints ; and soon resources adequate to his need 
arrived. 

He relieved all the poor around him, bought them 
bread, and paid their rent. In the autumn of 1864, 
having sent to claim a small sum that was owing to 
him, the debtor refused to pay, alleging in excuse that 
the Cur^ d'Ars had no need of money. " No need 
of money ! " he said when this was repeated to him. 
" And yet we are nearing Martinmas, and I have more 
than thirty rents to pay." About the same time, when 
he was told that the death of one of his parishioners 
would insure him an income, he remarked, " Oh 1 
that income is revertible to several lives." 

His liberality spread much beyond the bounds of 
his parish and diocese; it was prodigious. The 
Missions he founded in the Diocese of Belley, repre- 
sented in themselves alone a capital of 200,000 
francs : not to mention the sums he almost every- 
where granted to charitable works. But he by no 
means claimed to make Ars the central depot of 
charity in France. He therefore did not accept all 
the money that was offered to him, saying to certain 
persons, " I do not want so much ; can you not 
divide the sum and give me only a part of it ? " and 
to others, " My child, keep your money : the place 
that you were born in needs it ; give it there." In 
him, as in Saint Vincent de Paul, that other son of 
the soil, good common sense, the fundamental 



174 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

quality of the French peasant, was always to be 
found, and this good sense enlightened by faith, 
preserved him from all excess. 

He lavished kind attentions and gracious tokens 
of respect and affection on all who approached him, 
becoming more and more affable the more he ad- 
vanced in years. But his patience was subjected to 
the severest tests ! He never left the church, nay, 
never even crossed it, without being molested by 
importunate persons who, in their efforts to 
monopolize his attention, would bar his way and 
beset him with absurd requests, repeated ad infinitum. 
Often idle questions were put to him from all sides 
at once ; and sometimes in their eagerness the 
questioners would catch hold of the sleeves of his 
surplice, so that he felt himself being pulled in 
opposite directions at the same moment. But this 
and similar inconsiderate treatment, never made 
him frown or look displeased, or utter a hasty word. 
He was good, always good to everyone, so good that 
the surname le hon was given to him during his life 
and even to-day in Ars, in France, and in Rome he is 
still currently spoken of as le hon Cure d'Ars. 
Everyone called him " Father," because that word 
came naturally to the lips of all who saw his smiling 
face, his halo of long white silvery locks, and his 
brilliant eyes which pierced the depths of every 
heart, though they inspired no fear. 

He was particularly kind to his fellow-priests, 
whom he spared from all contrariety, doing their 
work himself whenever he thought they were not 
quite well. " One of the first Sundays I had the 



THE INNER LIFE 175 

happiness of spending with him," said M. Toccanier, 
"the good saint noticed during Vespers that I 
coughed very much. In the evening, after night 
prayers, what was my astonishment to see my 
venerable cur^, lantern in hand, braving the night 
and the inclement weather to come to me and say 
with kind solicitude, ' My friend, I have noticed 
that you cough very much ; I am not at all tired. 
If you would like it, I would say the first Mass in 
your place and undertake the catechizing of the 
children.'" 

All his Missioners were objects of his solicitude. 
He burdened himself to save their strength, watched 
over their well-being, and taxed his ingenuity to 
afford them pleasure. He gave them everything 
he had, even the pious treasures he received as 
presents, such as crosses, medals, rosaries, and re- 
liquaries, which were the only objects he cherished. 

Every day, after their mid-day meal, he paid a 
short visit to them, annoyed that they should rise 
as he entered. " Sit down, sit down," he always 
said to them ; and they were obliged to sit down, 
whilst he remained standing before them. In the 
evening he received them in his room with a few 
intimate friends, amongst whom pilgrims were some- 
times to be found. It was the moment in which he 
abandoned himself to unconstrained enjoyment. 
Standing before his table, or in winter before his 
hearth, he conversed with great animation, not at all 
as if he had been engaged in the confessional the 
whole day long. He was never gloomy, but was, on 
the contrary, quite gay, in spite of his internal 



176 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

sufferings, expressing himself with a certain quaint, 
humorous simphcity. For instance, when someone 
asked him, if it would be to his Missioners that he 
would leave his prophet's mantle, the idea suddenly 
suggesting itself to him that not only had he never 
possessed a mantle in his life but that, even the 
very underlinen upon his person was not his own, he 
began to laugh and said : " My friend, you must not 
look for a mantle where there is not even a shirt." ^ 

If he saw that they wished to question him so as 
to elicit the secrets of his inner life, he kept on 
talking as long as he possibly could. He was quite 
silent, on the contrary, when they mentioned pro- 
fane things. But this occurred rarely ; and as, out 
of deference, the lead in the conversation was 
almost always left to him, it ran no risk of wander- 
ing from his most familiar themes, God and salva- 
tion, the vanity of the pleasures of this world, and 
the eternal joys of the next. 

It was a kind of second catechizing, a catechizing 
as edifying as the one in the morning ; but freer in 
its scope, and far richer in picturesque imagery and 
anecdote. 

He had the gift of story-telling, and related a 
hundred different anecdotes about the lives of the 
Saints, with a freshness of imagination that age 
never dimmed ; and his store was especially inex- 
haustible when he wished to prove that holiness 

^ He suddenly indulged in the same gentle gaiety on another 
occasion, when a nun naively said to him, " My Father, they 
say thar you are unlearned." "My child,' he replied, "they 
have not deceived you ; but, no matter ! in spite of that I will 
tell you much more than you will ever do. " 



THE INNER LIFE 177 

renders a man master, so to speak, of the will of 
God. His hearers listened to him with emotion ; 
and a strong secret conviction that the annals of 
sanctity would one day record many facts of the 
same kind about him. 

The conversation though not very long, was always 
of an intimate character. The visitors soon rose to 
leave so as to give him a little time for repose. 
However fatigued he might be, he always accom- 
anied them to the head of the stairs, and 
courteously " presented his respects to them " in the 
good old fashion. Indulgent to others, he continued 
to be severe towards himself, treating his body, which 
he called his " corpse," with great austerity. During 
the last three years of his life, he took a little more 
nourishment, but not much, for he never ate meat 
two days in succession, and often passed weeks 
without tasting it. Also he consented to have a little 
fire made in his room. But if, in deference to the 
commands of his superiors, he slightly mitigated 
the severity of his regimen, it was not because 
his spirit of mortification had diminished in fervour,^ 
but because he had learnt that it was his greatest 
penance to accept those sufferings that age and his 
office imposed. 

' During the last ten years of his life he took a bit of bread and 
a cup of milk after his Mass. Brother Jerome, who was often 
present at this light repast, soon noticed that he always ate the 
bread first, and drank the milk afterwards. " But, Monsieur U 
Cur^,'' he observed one day when he saw with what difficulty the 
bread was swallowed, "if you were to put your bread in the 
milk it would be much better." "Yes, I know " was his gentle 
answer. 



178 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

*' Grant me the conversion of my parish," he had 
said to the Almighty, at the beginning of his 
Apostolate, " and I consent to suffer whatsoever 
Thou wilt, during the whole of my life." His prayer 
was answered. He was continually tortured by the 
most dreadful pains in his intestines ; and in spite of 
his efforts not to let anyone know of his sufferings, 
they sometimes impeded his utterance in the pulpit, 
compelled him to stop half-fainting on his way up 
stairs, and caused him to drop suddenly into a chair, 
in the very middle of a conversation. When 
questioned as to whether he was suffering: "Yes, 
a little," would be his only answer. He was also 
incessantly convulsed by a dry, hacking cough. 

But to what torture was his poor, aching body 
condemned in the narrow, wooden cell where he re- 
mained shut up for sixteen or seventeen hours 
every day to hear confessions, with feet motion- 
less and back bent, each shoulder, in turn, being 
bruised by the hard wood ! 

In winter, he was very cold, when the north-east 
wind, after having been chilled on the snowy heights 
of the Jura, and the frozen marshes of the Dombe, 
rushed boisterously into the church, whenever the 
great door was opened, and blowing through every 
chink in the confessional, cut his face and numbed 
his limbs. He owned to the Abbe Tailhades one 
year, that both his feet were frozen, adding, " When 
I quit the confessional, I am obliged to look for my 
legs, and then to touch them, to find out if I still 
have any." 

In summer it was worse : for no air came to him 



THE INNER LIFE 179 

except a little from the front, and even that little — 
still more restricted by the curtain — was dense and 
impure from the hot exhalations of two hundred 
persons. When he left it he could not support 
himself ; he was obliged to lean on the benches and 
chairs. If he had to visit some sick person, he was 
seen walking through the streets of the village quite 
doubled up, and obliged to stop every other moment. 

After such a day how was it possible for him to 
sleep peacefully I He used to say that " one hour 
of sound sleep sufficed to make him gallop." But 
that hour he scarcely ever had. The Abbe Monnin 
reports, "He avowed to us that when he had 
extended himself, panting for breath, upon his 
wretched bed of straw ' il souffrait comme un malheur- 
etix.' He did nothing but cough, and was bathed in 
perspiration, coiling himself up, and twisting and 
turning about, seeking a good place and finding none, 
rising perhaps as often as four or five times each 
hour. And when the pain began to be allayed by its 
very intensity, and he could have dropped into a 
quiet sleep, it was the hour when this poor, aged man 
of seventy, by an heroic effort renewed morning after 
morning, tore himself from repose before he had 
even tasted it." 

To these physical sufferings moral ones were 
added, whose nature can only be understood by 
interpreting the words, " he was a saint, and lived 
with sinners," in their fullest significance. He was 
a saint, that is to say, he was supremely pure, loyal, 
charitable, and mortified, and yet he had to pass his 
days in hearing people relate their sins of obscenity, 



180 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

cheating, violence, and excess of all kinds! He was 
a saint, that is to say, he loved God with all his soul ; 
and they scarcely told him of anything except offences 
committed against God. This lacerated his heart, 
and in his most intimate conversations he could not 
repress the grief it caused him. 

"Ah! it is here one must come, to know all the 
harm that the sin of Adam has done to us," he 
repeated time after time. 

" My God ! " he exclaimed one day '• how weary I 
am of sinners ! When shall I be with saints ? " 

And another day : " The good God is so much 
sinned against, that one is almost tempted to ask 
for the end of the world. If there were not, here and 
there, some beautiful souls to repose the heart, and 
solace the eyes for all the evil that one sees and 
hears, we could not tolerate each other in this life." 

And to one of his fellow-priests : " I pine away 
with melancholy on this wretched earth, my soul is 
sad even unto death. My ears hear nothing but 
painful things which break my heart with grief." 

And to another, " When one thinks of the ingrati- 
tude of man towards the good God, one is tempted 
to escape to the other side of the world so as not to 
see it any more. It is dreadful 1 and would be dread- 
ful in any case, even if the good God were not so 
good ! But he is so good ! " And whilst speaking 
thus, his face was bathed in tears. 

At the recollection of the faults which had been 
confessed to him, his sorrow burst forth even in public. 
" No," he sometimes exclaimed during his cate- 
chizings, with an emotion which at once communi- 



THE INNER LIFE 181 

cated itself to his hearers, so certain were they that 
it was of himself he spoke, " No, there is no one in 
the world so unfortunate as a priest ! How is his 
life passed? In seeing and hearing the good God 
offended! His Holy Name blasphemed! His 
commandments violated ! His love outraged! The 
priest sees and hears nothing else but that! . . . 
He is like Saint Peter at the praetorium of Pilate, 
always having before his eyes Our Lord insulted, 
despised, mocked, covered with ignominy. . . . Some 
spitting in His face, others buffeting Him, plaiting a 
crown of thorns upon His Head, and striking Him 
with heavy blows. They push Him, they cast Him 
to the ground, they trample Him under foot, they 
crucify Him, they pierce Him to the heart. . . . Ah ! 
if I had known what it was to be a priest, instead of 
going to the Seminary I should very quickly have 
made my escape to la Trappe." 

If he could only have had the consciousness of the 
immense good that he was doing to sustain him I 
But this consolation was denied. 

He thought of a cure's mission with terror. How 
many have been canonized ? Scarcely any. Not 
one, perhaps. This saint was a monk; that one 
a missionary; others were laymen, many were 
bishops ; and nevertheless the number of bishops 
is infinitely less than the number of cures. Neither 
Saint Vincent de Paul nor Saint Francois Regis 
wished to remain cures to the end. ..." But again, 
what a task ! It is thought, prayer, intimate union 
with God that a priest needs. The cure, however, 
lives in the world ; he converses, mixes in politics, 



182 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

reads the newspapers, has his head full of them ; 
then he goes to read his breviary, and say his Mass ; 
and so, alas ! he does it as if it were an ordinary 
thing ! And then, too, the Confessional, and the 
Sacraments ! Ah ! how fearful it is to be a cur^ 1 " 
This is what many persons have often heard him 
say. 

None of the cures appeared to him to have 
such a crushing burden as his, because he con- 
sidered himself absolutely unfit to carry the least 
load. He really thought he was utterly devoid 
of intelligence, and without any zeal or virtue. 
Therefore he never spoke of his person or his 
works without employing the word, which one uses 
to express pity, and especially pity mixed with 
contempt. Thus it was always his poor soul, his 
poor body, his poor sins, his pauvre misere. He 
joyfully accepted all contradictions. He always 
asked his fellow-helpers to reprimand him. He 
was astonished that God allowed him to cumber 
the earth : " How good God is," he said, " to bear 
with my unworthiness. God, in His great mercy, 
has given me nothing on which I may lean, neither 
talent, learning, strength, nor virtue. When 1 
reflect about myself, I discover nothing but my 
poor sins. And yet the good God does not let me 
see all of them and I do not thoroughly know my- 
self. That sight would make me fall into despair." 

In the atmosphere of flattery by which he was 
surrounded, he would not have become a saint had 
it not been for this incomparable humility. But if 
it was the armour which allowed him to pass un- 



THE INNER LIFE 183 

hurt through such an extraordinary test of his 
virtue, as the sight of these kneeling crowds which 
each day surrounded him, it was also an indescrib- 
able torture. For every mark of attention made 
the blood rush to his cheeks as if he had received 
a blow, and the least praise caused him to shed 
bitter tears. When on Sundays the preachers used 
to speak of him he would flee, quite overcome, to the 
sacristy. On seeing his picture in the village shops, 
he hastened his steps to hide himself. When he 
knew they had written his biography, " Do you 
wish," said he reproachfully, " to sell me at the 
fair ? " Mgr. Devie, who, however, quite understood 
the susceptibility of this elect soul, having one day 
gone so far as to call him " his holy Cure," he was 
quite in despair. " How unhappy 1 am ! Everyone, 
even Monseigneur, is deceived in me." He was so 
abashed at receiving a Canon's hood, that he never 
wore it except on the day of his installation, and 
it was with amazement, that he learnt one day in 
the month of August 1855, that he was named 
Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. 

The witness in the process of Beatification, to 
whom he had confided a singular prayer, tells us 
that, in the depth of his humility, he one day asked 
God for grace to know his nothingness, and this 
favour was granted him. He thus saw, that it is 
God who inspires our good actions, and works in us ; 
we bring no other co-operation than our consent, 
which we often refuse, and in that case nothing 
remains but our malice. " This view of myself I 
had for eighteen months, and fearing that it would 



184 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

end by plunging me into despair, I prayed to God 
that He would withdraw it, which at length He did." 

Thus fully persuaded of his unworthiness, with 
his suffering body, his soul torn by the vileness 
revealed to him in confession, and less happy in 
the good that he accomplished than afflicted in 
thinking of all that remained to be done, one under- 
stands that the Cur6 d'Ars was quite sincere when 
he said, one day, to the Abbe Toccanier : " How 
much I am to be pitied ! I do not know anyone 
more unhappy than I." And as time could only 
increase the sufferings of so refined a nature, we 
can understand why he so often repeated some 
months before he died, " Ah, how sad this life is ! 
When I came to Ars if I could only have foreseen 
what sufferings awaited me, I should at once have 
died of fear." 

Against the incessant assault of these innumer- 
able sufferings he sought for help in prayer, " which 
is always sweet," he said, " which is as honey to the 
soul, and which causes one's troubles to melt away 
as the sun melts the snow." 

How and when did he pray ? How intimate was 
his intercourse with God ? What were his trials 
and consolations ? One does not know exactly, 
but one may divine many things of his interior life 
by reading the summary of his catechetical instruc- 
tions. Though not taking his audience fully into 
his confidence, he often did so indirectly. From 
the nature of such an instruction, or the force 
of such a word, one has no trouble in understanding 
that he himself practised what he recommended. 



THE INNER LIFE 185 

and each time he says, " this is how one ought 
to act," we are right in concluding that this is how 
he acted himself. 

He used to pray nearly the whole of the night 
because he awoke several times an hour, and each 
time he certainly hastened to follow this counsel 
which he gave to others. " See, my children, that 
when you awake in the night, you transport yourself 
quickly in spirit before the Tabernacle, saying : 
' Behold me, my God, I come to adore Thee, to 
praise, thank, and love Thee, and to keep Thee 
company with all the angels.' " 

His prayer was the more fervent because he knew 
that all the parish was then asleep, and that if he 
did not adore God, no one else was worshipping 
Him at that moment in Ars. One feels indeed that 
the happiness of which he spoke during one of his 
instructions was habitual with him, and that he 
experienced it in his sleepless nights. " What 
happiness do we not feel in the presence of God 
when we find ourselves alone at His feet. ' Come, 
my soul, redouble thy fervour, thou art alone to 
adore thy God, His glance rests on thee alone.' " 

During the day he devoted to prayer, all the time 
that was not taken up by the duties of his ministry, 
and in order not to lose any moment of this time — 
always too short for his desires — he used to pray 
while going from his room to the church, from the 
sacristy to the confessional, and also when going 
to see his sick parishioners. For do we not find 
this unintentional avowal in another of his dis- 
courses ? " When we walk along the street let 



186 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR^ D'ARS 

us fix our eyes on Our Lord bearing His cross 
before us; on the Blessed Virgin who beholds us, 
and on our good Angel who is by our side. How 
beautiful is this interior life ! It brings us into 
communion with the good God." 

Here is another and more explicit confidence. 
" Prayer makes the time pass very rapidly and so 
happily that we are unconscious of its duration. As 
I was travelling through the Bresse when all the cures 
were ill, I used to pray to the good God the whole 
way, and I assure you the time did not seem long." 

He has made other confidences of the same kind, 
betraying in all simplicity, without any thought of 
boasting, the secret of the graces which he had ob- 
tained, convinced in his humility that where he, who 
was so unworthy, had succeeded, no one could 
possibly fail. Thus he says again : " One prayer 
which is pleasing to God, is to ask the Blessed Virgin 
to ofi'er the mangled and bleeding form of her Divine 
Son to the Eternal Father, for the conversion of 
sinners. It is the best prayer that one can make, 
since, after all, every prayer is made in the name and 
through the meritsof Jesus Christ. My children, mark 
this well ; every time that I have obtained a grace 
1 have asked it in this way ; and it has never failed." 

In prayer, as in everything else, he was very simple 
and did not seek to appear before God other than he 
was : recollected but unaffected in manner, with no 
striking gestures, or prolonged genuflexions. A priest 
one day told his first historian that the cure had re- 
commended him, when hearing his confession, not to 
attract attention by his attitude in church. " He 



THE INNER LIFE 187 

had no doubt observed, that I used to bow profoundly 
to the altar. ' My friend,' he added, * do not let us 
make ourselves remarked.' " 

Still less did he make phrases. He advised one 
to use very simple language to God, and he certainly 
himself used such words as a child would when 
speaking to its mother, if it were hungry, or afraid 
of falling, or wished for a caress. " You must often 
ask," he said, •' during the day for the light of the 
Holy Spirit, and often repeat ; ' My God, have pity 
on me,' like a child who says to its mother : • Give 
me a piece of bread, give me your hand, kiss me.' " 

Again he said : " It is not necessary to speak very 
much in order to pray well. You know that the 
good God is in the Tabernacle ; you open your heart 
to Him and you feel happy in His Holy Presence. 
This is the best of all prayers." 

" One knows that God is there." Having this 
certitude to an extraordinary degree, he conversed 
with God as naturally as if he saw Him with his eyes, 
touched Him with his hands, and were sure of re- 
ceiving His answers. This he explained one day in 
brief and striking words to a person who, having 
heard him speaking on faith, asked " What is faith ?" 
He answered, " Faith is when one speaks to God as 
to a man." 

This feeling of the Divine Presence was especially 
striking when he was in church. " Before there 
were so many people," relates Catherine in her notes, 
" he always read his Office kneeling prostrate on the 
pavement of the Sanctuary, without anything to 
lean against. He often paused and regarded the 



188 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

Tabernacle with eyes which expressed such joy that 
one would have thought that he saw Our Lord. 
When the Blessed Sacrament was exposed he did 
not sit down, except when there was a priest present 
who was a stranger, that he might not do differently 
from him. Then he would turn towards the altar 
with an ecstatic smile. One of his colleagues, one 
day noticing him in this attitude, instinctively 
glanced at the altar, as if he expected to see some- 
thing there." 

Again, when he preached from the altar, his eyes 
never rested on the Tabernacle without his being 
seized with a kind of breathless transport. He never 
spoke of the Mass without being moved to tears. 
" Oh, my friend," he said one day to a seminarist, who 
was speaking of the grandeur of the priesthood, 
" when I carry the Blessed Sacrament to the right. 
It remains there, I carry It to the left and It remains 
there also. One will never understand the happiness 
there is in saying Mass until one is in heaven." 

When one so firmly believes that God is always 
there before one, prayer becomes a continual 
necessity to answer to the needs of the heart, and 
however painful may be the trials of existence, the 
interior life offers, at least at moments, those con- 
solations, which convert every suffering into joy. 
Let us again quote from his instructions ; for in the 
dearth of direct confidences made by M. Vianney 
about himself, what other resource have we but to 
seek in his sermons, the teaching in which one re- 
cognises, in spite of himself, something of his inner 
experience. Thus he says : — 



THE INNER LIFE 189 

" The interior life is a sea of love in which the 
soul is plunged and is, as it were, drowned in love. 
Just as a mother holds her child's face in her hands 
to cover it with kisses, so does God hold the devout 
man. ... I often think of the joy of the Apostles 
when they saw Our Lord again. The separation had 
been so cruel, Our Lord loved them so much. He 
was so good to them we must believe that He em- 
braced them, while saying to them ; ' Peace be unto 
you.' It is thus that he embraces our souls when 
we pray. He still says unto us : ' Peace be unto you.' " 

" When we go to Communion," said M. Vianney 
another day, " we experience an extraordinary 
feeling of comfort which seems to envelope us 
entirely. What is this but Our Lord communicating 
Himself to every part of our being and making us 
thrill with joy ? We are obliged to exclaim like St 
John : ' It is the Lord.' " 

Besides these interior joys, was he favoured by 
more extraordinary graces ? Was he like St Paul 
transported in spirit to the third heaven ? Did he 
receive divine visitations ? 

Through an avowal made to Catherine Lassagne, 
we know that he once felt himself imperiously 
warned of his duty without being able to explain 
how the order had been conveyed to him. •' I do not 
know if it were really a voice I heard, or only a 
dream, but be it as it may, it awoke me. This 
Voice told me that to snatch a soul from sin was 
more pleasing to God than any sacrifice, I was just 
then imposing on myself severe penances." 

'* We thought," added Catherine, " after repeating 



190 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

this remark, that he had perhaps resolved on prac- 
tising some great austerities which would have 
undermined his strength, and that God by this 
extraordinary and supernatural warning may have 
sought to dissuade him from so doing." 

We know through another incident which he 
confided to the Abbe Monnin, that he was once 
mysteriously comforted in his distress : " About 
two months ago," he said one day, " when I could 
not sleep, I was sitting on my bed, weeping over my 
poor sins, when I heard a sweet voice murmur in my 
ear: In te, Domine, speravi, non confnndar in eternmn. 
This encouraged me a little, but, as my trouble of 
mind continued, the same voice repeated still more 
distinctly. In te, Domine, speravi." Still he saw 
nothing, and declared that he did not know who had 
spoken to him so sweetly. 

He also confided to the Abbe Toccanier another 
experience, less explicit, but which hinted at still 
rarer favours. In his deposition, the latter relates: 
" On the 2nd of November 1856, M. Vianney, speaking 
of the foundations he had just made, acknowledged 
in the presence of the Brothers of the Holy Family 
that, during the night, he used to weary the good 
saints with his pleadings." '• You pray in the night 
also, M. le Cure ? " " When I am awake. I am old 
now and have not much timeto live, one must make the 
most of each moment." " But you lie on the hard 
boards, and you hardly sleep." He answered impres- 
sively, "One is not always sleeping on the hard boards." 
Some moments after I said to him : " M. le Cure, 
the good God by these foundations makes you see 



THE INNER LIFE 191 

clearly that He wishes you to be here." " There is 
much more than that." 

What were those other signs by which God had 
shown that He was content with his services ? Was 
he alluding to an apparition of St Philomena, of 
which he had spoken in veiled words to Catherine 
Lassagne ? What had he seen or heard, the remem- 
brance of which had so powerfully affected him ? 
He has kept it secret, for,. reading too much curiosity 
in the eyes of his missionary, he repented having 
said so much, and never again reverted to the 
subject. 

But from this imperfect confidence we may con- 
clude that at times he had certainly had, even here 
below, a foretaste of celestial joys. He was all the 
more impatient to quit this world in which he 
maintained that " a good Christian ought not to be 
able to bear himself, but ought always to pine for a 
better." A sentiment which he explained by one of his 
familiar but most characteristic comparisons. " If 
a little child were there in this church, and its 
mother were in the pulpit, it would stretch its little 
hands out towards her, and, if it could not mount the 
staircase which led to her, it would seek help and 
would have no rest till it was in its mother's arms." 

In spite of the ardour of his affection for Him, 
Whom he thus compared to a mother, he ling- 
ered long here below. Long before his cry was 
answered, he stretched forth his hands, as innocent 
as when quite a child, he used to hide in his father's 
stable to pray. It was only when old age crept on 
and rendered him incapable of labouring for the 



192 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY,CUR6 D'ARS 

salvation of souls, that he was invited to go up 
higher. This was more than two months after he 
had entered his 74th year, and more than six months 
since the 42nd anniversary of his apostolate in the 
Dombes. 



CHAPTER XI 

HIS DEATH AND THE PROCESS OF BEATIFICATION 

T^HOSE who expected from the Cure d'Ars, 
when dying, abundant tears, burning words 
and revelations about the happiness of the elect, 
were much disappointed ; in death as in life he was 
simple and unaffected. In his case we may repeat 
the words of Bossuet when admiring the tranquil 
end of a brilliant princess, who having lived a worldly 
life had yet died as a Christian : " Une sainte 
simplicite fait ici toute la grandeur." 

The intense heat of July 1859, had made the over- 
crowded little church of Ars like a furnace in which 
it was impossible to stay long without suffocating. 
Those who were waiting their turn were constantly 
obliged to go out to breathe a little fresh air ; yet 
M. Vianney never left the heated confessional in 
which his zeal kept him a prisoner. He never even 
complained, but became gradually weaker. It was 
known that he had fallen half-fainting several times 
while descending the stairs from his room, and such 
words as: "Ah! the sinners will kill the sinner"! 
escaped him involuntarily, from which one gathered 
that he would soon succumb under his heavy task. 

On Friday, July 29th, after having, as usual, spent 
sixteen or seventeen hours in the confessional, he 



194 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

went home quite exhausted. And sinking down on 
a chair, exclaimed, " I can do no more." Still he 
would not allow any one to sit up with him, and the 
missionaries were obliged to retire. 

At one o'clock in the morning he called Catherine 
Lassagne, who hurried to his bed-side. " You are 
tired, M. le Cur^." — " Yes, I think it is my poor end." 
— " I will go and call someone." — " No, do not 
trouble anybody, it is not worth while." 

When morning came, as he felt still more feeble, 
he accepted the help which he had until then 
refused. He let Brother Jerome slip a mattress 
under his miserable straw pallet. When one wished 
to give him a little air and drive away the flies with 
a fan, he objected, '* Leave me," said he, " with my 
poorfiies.'^ 

At the news that he would not leave his room that 
day, and perhaps never again, the whole village and 
all the pilgrims were in great consternation. The 
church was at once filled with supplicants, who came 
to implore Heaven to keep him with them. For 
three days this concert of fervent prayers was un- 
interrupted, but he himself refused to join in them. 

" Monsieur le Cure," said one, " let us hope that 
St Philomena, whom we are going to invoke most 
earnestly, will restore you to health this time, as she 
did eighteen years ago." " Oh ! St Philomena can do 
nothing now." He knew that the hour of recom- 
pense had come, that hour which he had foreseen 
and announced, several times, since the beginning 
of the summer. When some one had given him a 
veil to wrap round the monstrance in the processions 



HIS DEATH 195 

of the Blessed Sacrament. " I shall only use it 
once," said he. And when they made him sign the 
receipt for his stipend he remarked, " That will do for 
my burial." In the course of July, Madame Pauze, 
a pious woman of St Etienne, told him of the grief 
which oppressed her at the thought of never seeing 
him again, for she did not think of returning to Ars. 
" But, my child," he had answered, " in three weeks 
we shall see each other again." Three weeks later 
they met in heaven. 

On Tuesday evening he asked for the last Sacra- 
ments. He shed tears when the bell announced 
that Jesus had left the Tabernacle to visit him, and 
again when he saw the priest entering his room. 
One of his helpers threw himself on his knees before 
his bed and implored him to ask God for his recovery ; 
but he made a sign of dissent. After he had received 
Extreme Unction, he was asked if there was any- 
thing he desired. " You have forgotten," he 
answered, " to give me the indulgence of the * Bona 
Mors,' " thereupon the Abbe Toccaniergave it to him. 
When they begged him afterwards to bless the 
parish, his missionaries and all the charitable works 
already begun, he closed his eyes and prayed, then 
raised in a last benediction that hand so often 
extended to bless. After that he closed his eyes, 
but reopened them again to smile gently on his 
bishop, who had arrived in haste and was clasping 
him in his arms. On Thursday, August 4th, at two 
in the morning he ceased to breathe, just as the Abb6 
Toccanier, while reciting the prayers for the com- 
mendation of the soul, uttered these words : ** Veniant 



196 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

illi obviam sancti Angeli Dei et perducant eum in 
civitatem coelestem Jerusalem." " Let the holy 
angels of God come forth to meet him, and conduct 
him to the city of the heavenly Jerusalem." 

The tidings of his death were announced to the 
many worshippers who filled the church. At once 
the voice of the people, in this case truly the voice 
of God, began to exalt him, who had so loved 
humility. For two whole days immense crowds 
passed before his body, which was covered with 
flowers, and clothed in the poor soutane and cotta, 
that for thirty years he had so constantly worn. 

Such numbers brought crosses, rosaries, and 
medals to touch his sacred hands, that the arms 
of the priests charged with this office were quite 
stiff and weary ; and the shops in Ars were entirely 
despoiled of all the pious objects which they con- 
tained. 

On Saturday, the day of the funeral, if that 
triumphant ceremony can be so called, nearly six 
thousand persons, some of whom had come from the 
remotest parts of France, were crowded together 
on the square and in the streets of the village. 
The funeral knell resounded from every neighbour- 
ing steeple. Three thousand priests preceded the 
coffin. All knelt as it passed, as if to receive 
a benediction, and though many eyes were over- 
flowing with tears, every heart was penetrated 
with Christian joy, so assured were they that the 
day of his death was the birthday of a saint. 

The Bishop of Belley, who spoke in the open 
square, did but translate the thoughts of his audience 



HIS DEATH 197 

by choosing, as the text of his discourse, words 
which the church chants in the office for her con- 
fessors, " Euge 1 serve bone et fideHs, intra in 
gaudium Domini tui." •' Well done, good and faith- 
ful servant ; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." 

Everybody understood the hope implied by the 
choice of this text ; and when the orator had de- 
scribed the life which had just ended, his recital 
so much resembled a panegyric that no one was 
astonished at its conclusion : " And be assured," 
said he, addressing himself to the beloved and 
venerated cure, "that the most joyful and most 
earnestly desired day of my episcopate will be that, 
on which the voice of the Church shall permit me 
to acclaim you solemnly, and to chant in your 
honour : " Euge ! serve bone et fidelis, intra in 
gaudium Domini tui." 

Mgr. de Langalerie did not live to see that day, 
for the Church does not pronounce her judgments 
hastily ; but seldom has a process been so rapidly 
examined as that of the Blessed Vianney. In less 
than forty-five years after his body had been laid in 
the vault hollowed out at the foot of his pulpit, the 
Holy See had issued a decree, declaring that one 
might confidently proceed with his Beatification. 
Scenes took place six years after his death, on 
August 4th 1865, which in some measure anticipated 
the fetes of the Beatification. On that day the 
sanctuary, in which the relics are now exposed to 
the veneration of the faithful, was inaugurated. 

It was M. Vianney himself who had first had the 
idea of building this church. 



198 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

He had long dreamt of erecting a beautiful altar 
to St Philomena, when a poor woman whose child 
had been cured of blindness gave M. Toccanier 
twenty francs, saying : " For M. le Cure to use 
them as God may inspire him." The Abbe Toccanier 
carried the piece of money to M. Vianney and said : 
"Would you like this little gift to be the leaven 
of the sum necessary to erect an altar to St 
Philomena? I only ask for your approbation and 
benediction." The holy cure having given both, 
M. Toccanier at once began collecting from house 
to house. In a few hours he had got seven- 
teen hundred francs, a large sum for such a little 
village, and the altar was erected by the architect 
Bossan. 

The success of the subscription made at Ars 
emboldened M. Vianney, and he spoke not only of 
an altar, but of a sanctuary. He opened the new 
subscription list, promised a hundred francs himself, 
and at the head of it wrote these words, which were 
to loosen so many purse strings : " My prayers are 
promised to those who will aid me in building a 
beautiful church to St Philomena." 

But he himself never saw the building. The 
project of the lottery which he had submitted to the 
government was not authorised, and soon afterwards 
exhausted and worn out by his zeal, he was stretched 
on his death-bed. 

While he was piously awaiting the end, the Abb^ 
Toccanier bent down and whispered to him : " My 
father, is there then no hope for our beautiful church." 
At these words the dying man raised his head and 



HIS DEATH 199 

his eyes brightened. •' Courage, my friend," said he, 
*' you will succeed." 

Emboldened by the remembrance of these words, 
the Abb^ Toccanier lost no time in taking up the 
work again, and after some preliminary difficulties 
everything was happily arranged. The government 
which had at first refused to consent to a lottery of 
fifty thousand francs, now authorised one of a 
hundred thousand. Money flowed in from all parts, 
and on May 1st 1862 the necessary funds were 
collected. 

The work was at once begun. Bossan, who re- 
sembled the great architects of the Middle Ages in 
his thorough comprehension of Christian symbolism, 
admirably understood what memory and hope de- 
manded. He was obliged to leave the humble church 
which had been the scene of this marvellous apos- 
tolate just as it was before ; but it was necessary to 
give it a crown which would be the symbol of the 
recompense so ardently desired by the apostle. So 
the small church remained intact, but on its apse rose 
an octagonal cupola of a style until then unknown, 
Roman at its base but narrowing gracefully to the 
summit, which was crowned by a cross surmounted 
by palms and lilies. At the eight angles, leaning 
against the wall, with their faces turned to the 
pilgrims, and presenting to them the instruments of 
the martyrdom of St Philomena, were lovely figures 
of angels, masterpieces of the sculptor Dufraine, 
who, as is often the case, was ignored during his 
life-time by the critics, though since his death they 
have discovered him to be a great artist. 



200 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURfe D'ARS 

Under this original crown of stone, the interior of 
which was ornamented by some interesting frescoes 
by Borrel, was erected the altar of St Philomena, 
and also three others. One of the latter remained 
temporarily, without either patron or image. 

On the day of the inauguration, the name of the 
Cur^ d'Ars was constantly associated with that of 
St Philomena in the panegyrics of the orators as 
well as in the remarks of the crowd, and joy beamed 
from every face when Mgr. de Langelerie, standing 
once again in the village square, on the spot where 
six years previously he had saluted the coffin of M. 
Vianney, announced that the first phase of the 
formalities, necessary to the glorification of the holy 
priest, was accomplished : the documents relating to 
it had been sent to the Congregation of Rites. 

Whilst the process was following its due course at 
Rome, M. Vianney's fame spread throughout the 
length and breadth of France. 

The missionaries of the Diocese of Belley con- 
tinued their charitable works under the direction of 
M. Camelot, M. Toccanier, M. Ball and M. Couvert, 
who, one after the other, received the title of Cure 
d'Ars, a title obscure a hundred years ago, but now, 
without exception, the most glorious a French cure 
could bear. In order that Ars might not cease to be 
a centre of spiritual life in the Lyonese District, they 
organised periodical retreats, which are still very 
successful at the present day. 

The pilgrimage was uninterrupted, and sick people 
continued as before to wend their way to Ars. But 
what they had formerly begged through the inter- 



HIS DEATH 201 

cession of St Philomena, they now dared to ask 
through the medium of the Cure d'Ars as they 
extended their maimed or crippled limbs upon his 
tomb. Celebrated cures were made, which were 
recorded in official reports, added to the other 
documents of the process. 

Meanwhile the public were eagerly asking to know 
more of the life and good works of him who was 
about to be beatified. The Abb^ Monnin responded 
to their demands by writing the life of M. Vianney, 
an eloquent work, to which we acknowledge our 
indebtedness. Indeed this biography of the Cur^ 
d'Ars has a great advantage over all others, since 
the author was M. Vianney's fellow-labourer, a 
confidant of some of his thoughts and a witness of 
his death.^ He also published a summary of his 
catechisings and conversations, under the title of. 
The Spirit of the Cure d'Ars. ^ 

The Abb^ Olivier, in his turn, contributed a life of 
M. Vianney to the compilation called The Annals of 
Sanctity.^ The two Abb^s Delaroche published his 
Sermons.* Under the name of Flowers of Ars pious 

* Le Curi cVArs, a life of the Venerable Jean-Baptiste-Marie 
Vianney, by the Abb^ Alfred Monnin, Missionary, 2 vols. ; Paris, 
Douniol. 

'^Esprit du Curi d'Ars. M. Vianney in his catechisings, 
homilies, and conversations, by the Abb^ A. Monnin, Paris, 
Douniol. 

* Vie du Venerable Serviteur de Dieu. Jean- Marie- Baptiste 
Vianney^ Curi d'Ars, by the Abb6 J. H. Olivier; Paris, Bloud 

and Barral. 

* Sermons by the Venerable Servant of God, Jean-Baptiste 
Vianney, Cur6 d'Ars, edited by M. le Chanoine Etienne Delaroche 
and the R. P. Marie- Augustin Delaroche,4 vols.; Paris, Beauchesne. 



202 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

little books were compiled of thoughts taken from 
his catechisings and homilies. Every year, on the 
fourth of August, the anniversary of his death was 
solemnly celebrated at Ars, and the most eloquent 
preachers of the day, both bishops and priests, were 
asked to pronounce his panegyric. Finally, his 
successors have issued monthly, since June 1900, 
a little review called •' The Annals of Ars," in which 
they recall M. Vianney's teachings, relate anecdotes 
of his apostolate not known before, and chronicle the 
pilgrimage. Another biography of the holy cure has 
recently been published. It is written by the elegant 
and vigorous pen of a true scholar, who made a 
special study of his diocese as it was in the last 
century, and availed himself of many unpublished 
documents, so that his life gives a very exact portrait 
of our hero.^ 

Whilst the mind and soul of M. Vianney were 
being thus recalled, a talented sculptor, Emilien 
Cabuchet, made an attempt to reproduce his 
features. 

Some time before the holy cure's death, wishing 
to make his bust, he obtained a letter of introduction 
for that purpose from Mgr. Chalandon. But his 
request met with a decided refusal, and as he was 
unwilling to abandon his project, he went to Ars 
incognito. He confessed to his model in order to 

^ The author of that biography is M. H. Sevin, Canon of the 
Diocese of Belley, who will perhaps pardon this mention of his 
name, and accept many thanks for all the services he has been 
kind enough to render me, especially the great one of having 
communicated facts not previously known. 



HIS DEATH 203 

have a good view of his face, and attended the 
catechisings, modelling meantime in his hat. One 
day, he unfortunately took it into his head to 
introduce himself as the sculptor of the statue of 
St Vincent de Paul, just then erected at Ch^tillon, 
and to reveal the motive of his presence. He 
received at once a sharp reprimand. Requested to 
withdraw without having accomplished anything, he 
was thus apostrophised in the midst of the crowded 
church : " Come, come, my friend, you have dis- 
tracted every one's attention, and mine amongst 
the rest, quite long enough." The artist persisted 
no more, but left Ars. He returned, however, after 
a certain time, in the confident belief he was for- 
gotten. But as he began his work during the 
catechising, unnoticed as he thought in the crowd, 
M. Vianney's quick eye detected him at once. In 
the evening he was accosted by the good cur^, 
rebuked, and told that he must go away. " Come, 
come, my friend, is there nothing you have to do at 
home ? " " But what crime have I committed ? " 
" You know quite well." 

Happily the rough model was advanced enough to 
be finished from memory. When death came, and 
M. Vianney's modesty could no longer prevent any 
one from rendering him homage, it was a full length 
statue, and not a simple bust, that was demanded of 
M. Cabuchet. He represented the holy cur^ in his 
most familiar attitude, kneeling with hands joined 
as if in prayer. His features, the gesture of his 
hands, the pose of his head, the expression of his 
lips, his physiognomy, all were so happily caught and 



204 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CURE D'ARS 

reproduced, that this truly admirable likeness ranks 
amongst the best works of contemporary sculpture. 

Humble Cure d'Ars! how far were you from 
thinking whilst you lived, that your poor face, as you 
used to call it, would inspire a work of art 1 And 
how much further still from suspecting that there 
would soon be an office for a cure in the Breviary, 
and that that office would be yours 1 

The history of the process of the Beatification 
cannot be detailed here, only the essential facts of 
it with their dates will be given. 

On October the 3rd 1874, M. Vianney was pro- 
claimed Venerable by Pope Pious IX. 

On June the 21st 1896, the last congregation 
charged with pronouncing on the heroic degree of 
virtue of the Venerable Cure d'Ars met, under the 
presidency of Pope Leo XIII., Cardinal Parocchi, — 
one of the most eminent members of the Sacred 
College — being the reporter of the cause. The 
judges unanimously replied in the affirmative. The 
Holy Father, without notifying his decision, did not 
conceal how profoundly this unanimity impressed 
him. " There is reason to augur well of this cause," 
he said. " For if the exemplary virtues practised 
by the Venerable Servant of God during the whole 
course of his life, have shone alone, by the splendour 
of their own brilliancy till now, they will become 
more radiant still, from the unanimous approval just 
bestowed on them. On August 1st he solemnly 
promulgated the decree recognising the heroic 
degree of virtue of the Venerable Vianney. It is 
one of the most eloquent decrees of the kind the 



HIS DEATH 205 

Congregation of Rites has had to register. The 
ardent piety of the Servant of God, the special 
assistance he received to attract sinners to repen- 
tance, the excellence of his counsels, his charity and 
his reputation for sanctity are all exalted in the 
highest terms. 

Leo XIII., who took great interest in this cause, 
as he did in everything connected with France, had 
fixed July 14th 1903 for the meeting of the Congre- 
gation which, under his presidency, was to examine 
the miracles of the Venerable Vianney. Then he 
altered his mind and put off this meeting till 
November, reserving the session on July 14th for 
the examination of the virtues of the Venerable Joan 
of Arc, another French cause. But the proposed 
meeting did not take place, for the day on which it 
was to be held the illustrious old man lay dying, so 
that instead of being called upon to rejoice at the 
exaltation of her national heroine, Christian France 
mourned the approaching death of the great Pontiff, 
who had loved her so well. 

The joy of glorifying the humble country cur^ was 
reserved for one who had also been a country cure 
himself. On August 4th 1903, by a happy coin- 
cidence, at the very hour when a solemn High 
Mass was being chanted at Ars, to celebrate 
the forty-fourth anniversary of the death of 
Jean-Marie Vianney, the former Cure of Tombolo 
was elected Pope at Rome, taking the name of 
Pius X. 

On January 26th 1904 the new Pontiff who 
had thus begun his reign on the f^te of the 



206 BLESSED JOHN VIANNEY, CUR6 D'ARS 

Cur6 d'Ars, presided over the Congregation in- 
stead of his predecessor, Cardinal Matthieu being 
reporter of the cause. Two instances were 
brought forward, the restoration to health of 
little Adelaide Joly, and the cure of the boy 
Leon Roussat. The latter, attacked by epilepsy, 
had in 1862 been carried from St Laureut-les-Macon 
to the tomb of the Venerable Vianney, and laid upon 
it. His legs were useless, one of his arms was 
paralysed, he had lost the power of speech, and 
breathed with such difficulty that he could not 
retain his saliva : but when they lifted him off the 
tomb he had not only recovered the use of his legs, 
but he stretched out his maimed hand and gave alms 
to a poor man ; and by the end of the Novena, he 
spoke with fluency. The former, a little inmate of 
an infirmary kept by the Filles de Charite, had been 
afflicted with a white tumour on her arm in 
February 1861. The doctors having abandoned 
hope and declared all treatment of the case 
to be useless, the Sisters had put a boot-lace, 
that had belonged to the Venerable Vianney, 
upon the poor child's arm, and the tumour had 
disappeared. 

The Congregation gave a favourable decision, and 
on February 21st the Sovereign Pontiff' promulgated 
the Decree in which these miracles were held to be 
sufficient for the process of Beatification, and in the 
same Decree he proposed the Cure d'Ars as the 
model of the parochial clergy, in these words : 
" The heart-felt joy We experience, in promulgating 
the solemn decree affirming the miracles wrought 



HIS DEATH 207 

through the intercession of the Venerable John- 
Baptist Vianney for the cause of his Beatification, 
cannot be expressed in adequate words. To Ourself, 
who for so many years filled the office of parish 
priest, nothing could be more pleasing or profitable 
than to see this venerable parish priest honoured as 
one of the Blessed, and all the more because all, 
who are engaged in the work for souls, will feel as if 
his glory were reflected on them. God grant that 
every priest may follow the example of the Vener- 
able Vianney and imbibe in the same school the 
admirable piety to God, which charmed souls by its 
mute eloquence in his life-time in such a manner as 
to surpass all merely human eloquence. May all 
parish priests remember the example of John-Baptist 
Vianney and imitate the ardent charity which urges 
us to despise all things, even life itself." 

Lastly, on January the 8th 1895; the humble priest 
was solemnly enrolled in the ranks of the Blessed ; 
and all will agree with me, when 1 add, that the 
Beatification of the Blessed Cur6 d'Ars caused 
greater joy and rejoicing in France, than any other 
Beatification since that of St Vincent de Paul. His 
life plainly reveals the reason why, the virtues, which 
in him were carried by the inspiration of divine 
grace to the very height of sublime heroism, are 
those eminently characteristic of the sterling qualities 
of the people and peasants of France. May these 
same virtues, through his protection, flourish more 
vigorously than ever on our soil I 



APPENDIX 

THE NAME OP THE BLESSED CUR^ d'aRS 

npHE name of the Blessed Cur^ d'Ars is written 
Vianey in his baptismal certificate : — 

Jean Marie Vianey, the legitimate son of Mathieu 
Vianey and of Marie Beluze his wife, was born May 
8th 1786 and baptized the same day by me the 
undersigned vicaire : his godfather was Jean Marie 
Vianey his paternal uncle an inhabitant of Dardilly 
and his godmother Fran^oise Martinon wife of the 
said Jean Marie Vianey both of them illiteres de ce 
enquis. 

Blachon, vie. 

The orthography is the same in the marriage 
contract of the father and mother of the Blessed 
Vianney ; — in the death certificate of his father 
Matthieu Vianey (July 11th 1819), which certificate 
is signed Vianey by the son of the deceased, Fran9ois 
Vianey ; and also in the death certificate of the 
latter, (April 6th 1855), signed by his son Antoine 
Vianey, the last of the near relatives of the Blessed 
Vianney bearing his name. 

The name is correctly written Vianey in the 
Register of Ordinations (preserved in the Arch- 



210 APPENDIX 

bishop's palace at Lyons) on the list of those in 
minor orders and on the list of the sub-deacons, 
dated July 2nd 1814. It was written Vianay 
on the list of deacons bearing the date of June 
23rd 1815. By a fresh error it was written Viannay 
in the letters which sent the young deacon to 
Grenoble to be ordained priest. The deed re- 
lating to his ordination has preserved this spell- 
ing, and it was under the name of Viannay that 
the new priest was inscribed on the register of 
priests in the diocese of Lyons. The same 
spelling is also found in the deed of his nomination 
as Cur^ d'Ars. 

After his ordination to the priesthood the Cure 
d'Ars always signed himself Vianney. Perhaps he 
wished his signature to resemble that adopted in the 
registers at the Archbishop's palace, and in his 
mandats de traitement ; or again he might have been 
influenced by that in the death certificate of his 
mother, Marie Beluze, (Feb. 8th 1811): this death 
having been attested by her husband Matthieu 
Vianey, who could not sign his name, the clerk at 
the Mairie of Dardilly wrote the names as he thought 
fit ; he wrote them as Vianney and Beluse. It was 
not only with the spelling of proper names that he 
took liberties, for in the same act he stated that 
" ledit Vianney " was " illet^re," 

As the Cure d'Ars signed Vianney and this spell- 
ing has been adopted in the certificate of his death 
(which after all fixes his ^tat civil), and also in all the 
documents relating to the Beatification we could not 
write it differently. But on the other hand we could 



APPENDIX 211 

not write his parents' name otherwise than it is 
found in all their family letters and papers, with the 
exception of the certificate of his mother's death. 
We are thus obliged to adopt this strange solution 
of calling the father Vianey and the son Vianney. 
This question of spelling is after all of minor 
importance. 



TURNBULL AND SPEARS, PRINTSRS, EDINBURGH 




000 686 106 6